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Florida State posts first-ever win at Duke

Feb 5, 2007 - 12:26 AM DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- On the day that Duke honored former guard J.J. Redick, Florida State crashed the retirement party.

Al Thornton scored 21 points and the Seminoles won at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the first time in their history, outlasting the 10th-ranked Blue Devils, 68-67, in an Atlantic Coast Conference matchup.

Florida State (17-6, 5-4 ACC) ended the streak the hard way, rallying from a 17-point first-half deficit for its third straight victory, the first time the team has won three conference games in a row since joining the ACC in 1994-95.

"It meant an awful lot to our players and to our program because Duke has set a benchmark - they set the bar awful high," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton. "Duke has set a standard by which most of us are being judged by.

"To get a win here against a very good Duke team that's nationally ranked does a lot for your players' confidence and the morale of your program."

In beating the Blue Devils for just the sixth time in 31 all-time matchups, the Seminoles survived a three-minute scoring drought to end the contest and a critical technical foul called on Hamilton with 2:31 to play.

Jon Scheyer converted the two ensuing free throws following the technical to pull Duke (18-5, 5-4) within 68-67, but the Blue Devils went scoreless over the final 2 1/2 minutes despite three shots to win it in the final six seconds and absorbed their second straight loss.

After a disorganized possession that forced Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to call a timeout with 7.7 seconds left, guard Greg Paulus missed on a driving layup with four seconds left. After a jump gave Duke possession, Josh McRoberts missed a shot in the lane and DeMarcus Nelson couldn't convert the follow attempt as the buzzer went off.

"It was as hard a loss as you can get," Krzyzewski said. "We've won a number of games over the years in that situation, and the exhilaration of winning I'm not sure matches the despair of not winning in those situations."

Duke looked like it would put away Florida State by halftime, racing to a 22-7 lead in the first nine minutes behind 12 points from Paulus.

McRoberts hit a 3-pointer and scored inside to extend the advantage to 27-10 with just over 9 1/2 minutes to play, but Thornton and Uche Echefu sparked a 13-2 run to close the deficit to 29-25 with five minutes left in the half.

"I think that maybe we were so anxious and excited about the opportunity that we pressured too much and made some silly fouls early," Hamilton said. "We missed some really, really easy shots, and shot very poorly at the beginning of the game. Once we settled down, I thought we relaxed and executed and got into our system pretty well."

Trailing, 36-33, at halftime, Florida State forged ahead, 45-40, on five straight points by Jerel Allen.

Paulus buried a 3-pointer to put the Blue Devils ahead, 52-49, and connected again from the arc to knot it at 57-57, but Toney Douglas countered with a 3-pointer for the Seminoles, who extended the margin to 68-62 and held on from there.

"Down the stretch I think the most important thing was that we got some defensive stops and we made one or two more baskets than them," Hamilton said. "I think we both probably had the same kind of looks - we were very fortunate that a couple of ours went in. We were very fortunate that a couple of their good shots didn't go in."

Douglas finished with 15 points and Echefu added 12 for the Seminoles, who were 8-of-16 from the arc.

Paulus finished with a career-high 23 points and Nelson added 14 for Duke, which in a pregame ceremony retired the number of Redick, who set an NCAA record for career 3-pointers (457).

"I thought (Paulus) was magnificent," Krzyzewski said. "I thought he carried us. I couldn't ask more of my team than what they did. They put themselves in a position to win."