Seminoles knock off No. 1 North Carolina
ATLANTA - The last time North Carolina came down to the wire against Florida State, Ty Lawson bailed out the Tar Heels.
This time, all he could do was watch as two teammates missed.
Toney Douglas outshined reigning national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, scoring 27 points including the go-ahead free throws, as the No. 22 Seminoles ended top-ranked North Carolina’s quest for a third straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 73-70 upset in the semifinals Saturday.
Florida State (25-8) advanced to its first ACC final in school history. The Seminoles will meet No. 9 Duke on Sunday.
As for the Tar Heels, it’s time to start focusing on a national championship. Despite the loss, North Carolina (28-4) is still likely to get a top seed in the NCAA tournament, especially after No. 2 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Connecticut both lost in their opening games at the Big East tournament.
“We understand,” said Hansbrough, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds but fumbled away the ball in the lane with about 20 seconds remaining. “We lose now, it’s over.”
During the regular season, Lawson hit a running 3-pointer as time expired to give the Tar Heels an 80-77 victory over Florida State.
He watched this ending from the bench, missing his second straight game because of an injured big right toe.
The Tar Heels had a couple of chances to force overtime. Wayne Ellington, who led North Carolina with 24 points, missed from beyond the arc. Danny Green chased down the rebound, stepped outside the line and fired up another 3 at the buzzer. It came up short, and the Seminoles erupted in a raucous celebration.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Douglas, who grew up about 15 miles from the Georgia Dome and is the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas. “But we’re still hungry. We’re never satisfied.”
Douglas was still celebrating after Maryland and Duke began warming up for their semifinal, running the length to share the moment with family and friends.
Asked how many were at the game, Douglas said, “I can’t even count. I’m just so happy they enjoyed it.”
Tar Heels coach Roy Williams made clear his top priority when he decided to sit Lawson at the ACC tournament, trying to ensure he’s as healthy as possible to make a run at a national title.
“We wanted to win this real bad,” said Lawson, who did some shooting before the game and proclaimed his toe much improved. “But our big goal is the national championship.”
Still, it was a stunning defeat for the team that had won the last two ACC tournaments, eliminating Florida State each time, and 17 championships overall. The Seminoles picked up their first win over North Carolina since 2004 and their first postseason victory against the Tar Heels since the 1972 Final Four.
Green who had two miserable games in Atlanta, making only 3-of-25 shots. He did make a steal with just over 2 minutes remaining, was fouled and hit both free throws for a 69-all tie.
After both teams missed shots, Douglas was called for a loose-ball trying to come up with a steal on Lawson’s replacement at point guard, senior Bobby Frasor. The fill-in made only one of two free throws, putting North Carolina up 70-69 with 1:03 to go.
But Douglas, trying to dribble along the sideline in front of the Florida State bench, was tripped up by Ed Davis. The Florida State star calmly went to the line and sank two free throws with 47 seconds to go.
North Carolina tried to go to its star, but Hansbrough couldn’t hang on to the ball underneath.
“I don’t really know what happened,” said Hansbrough, who had two big ice packs on his knees after going against Florida State’s big front line. “It was just crowded under there.”
Florida State’s Derwin Kitchen scooped up the loose ball, was fouled and hit two clutch free throws — the first one climbing over the front of the rim and falling through.
“I knew if I made both of them they were going to have to get a 3-pointer,” Kitchen said. “Man, I was holding my breath. Please go in! Please go in!”
Hansbrough became the leading rebounder in North Carolina history, passing Sam Perkins, but he remained two points shy of J.J. Redick, the leading scorer in ACC history. That milestone will have to wait until the NCAA tournament.
But he’s more concerned about team goals heading into the tournament.
“If anything, this gives us a lot of motivation,” Hansbrough said. “This gives us a bad taste in our mouth.”
The Seminoles are on top of the world, especially Douglas. He made 10 of 18 from the field, including three beyond the arc, despite being shadowed by Frasor and having to get loose from frequent double teams.
“He’s a tough player,” Lawson said. “I didn’t know he was this good.”
The Seminoles shook off a dismal stretch of shooting early in the game, missing 16 of 17. North Carolina also struggled, but the Tar Heels looked to be pulling away late in the half when Hansbrough worked inside for his first basket of the game and a 30-21 lead.
Florida State closed the period on an 8-2 run, however. Douglas swished a 3-pointer, then hit another jumper while being fouled. He failed to convert the three-point play, but the Seminoles chased down the rebound and Kitchen scored to make it 32-29 going to the locker room.
The Seminoles carried that momentum through the rest of the game, forcing the Tar Heels to shift their focus to bigger and better things.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Frasor insisted. “We’d rather be playing (Sunday), but we played our season to be playing on the last Monday.”