Seminoles Bring ACC Championship To TallahasseePosted by mpatton on March 12th, 2012
Even the normally stoic Leonard Hamilton broke out an unabashed grin after his Seminoles knocked off North Carolina for the second time this season for the ACC Championship. His team controlled the game from start to finish despite numerous attempts from North Carolina to claw its way back into the thick of things. It was the most exciting and best-played game of the tournament, featuring two teams trading tough baskets.
Florida State controlled the game from the get-go, leading by 16 towards the end of the first half. That’s when Roy Williams called a timeout and Harrison Barnes led the Tar Heels on a 9-2 tear (he had seven of those nine) to close the half only down nine points. The Seminoles shot 62% from the floor and 54% from three; North Carolina kept things close because Barnes had 15, and the team was +6 in turnover margin (scoring 11 points off turnovers to Florida State’s three).
Florida State bounced back in the second half, pushing the lead to 14 with 15 minutes to play thanks to threes from Deividas Dulkys, Ian Miller and Luke Loucks. The crowd was incredibly pro-North Carolina, and everyone collectively gasped anytime Dulkys put up a shot and booed whenever he scored. But with only two starters in the game, one of Florida State’s most questionable defensive lineups was on the floor. PJ Hairston took advantage, knocking down three threes in five possessions, sparking a 17-6 comeback run by North Carolina.
But Florida State never tightened up. Okaru White finished a three-point play and eventual ACC Tournament MVP Michael Snaer knocked down a dagger to re-up the Seminole lead to nine. Again the Tar Heels were faced with an opportunity to fold with John Henson sidelined and a top seed virtually locked up. It’s what they did in Tallahassee, allowing an eight-point halftime deficit to balloon to 33 before the game finished. But the North Carolina team since its loss to Duke has proven much more resilient.
In the end Florida State’s two-minute stretch without a field goal wasn’t enough time for North Carolina to come back because of the defense of Bernard James (who had two blocks on the same possession), Dulkys and Snaer. That’s why these two teams should terrify opponents in the NCAA tournament. The knock on North Carolina coming down the stretch was that the Tar Heels didn’t have enough effort or moxie to realize their potential. The knock on Florida State is they can’t score. Both teams provided strong evidence against those criticisms yesterday, and both teams also have hungry stars. If that’s not a recipe for March success, I don’t know what is.