North Carolina Tar Heels: Luke Loucks


ATLANTA — Florida State forward Bernard James has a simple message for those who dare to doubt his basketball team.

“You should be a believer now,” he yelled as the last specs of championship confetti floated down around him from the Philips Arena ceiling.

Guard Ian Miller wasn’t so reserved with his response.

“I guess they believe now,” he said.

“If they don’t, tough luck because we’re getting a ring for this one.”

It’s hard not to believe in this FSU team after the Seminoles knocked off top-seeded North Carolina 85-82 in the ACC tournament final. The Seminoles captured their first ACC tournament championship and became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to beat both Duke and North Carolina twice in the same season.

The same team that lost 6 of 10 games from the end of November to the beginning of January, suffering losses by 20 and 18 points along the way, went 4-1 against Duke and North Carolina, proving that FSU’s successes were no accident.

“This is not a fluke,” Miller said. “You can’t win a championship on a fluke. Today, by winning this championship, our coaches told us it ain’t a fluke no more. People know we’re real now.”

Added James: “We silenced a lot of the doubters who say we don’t belong in the same breath as Duke and Carolina.”

Sunday, FSU stood alone, again, but only because it was above Tobacco Road’s giants.

[+] EnlargeMichael Snaer
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGuard Michael Snaer and the Seminoles will be a tough force in the NCAA tournament.
Now, the Seminoles, turn their attention to the NCAA tournament and are looking to take their high-flying act to the top of the college basketball mountain.

“We have five or six more wins until the national championship,” Miller said. “We’re trying to get there now.”

The notion of FSU making such a run in the craziest of months is no longer laughable. This team is legit. It went from trouble to tremendous in a few months and now has tons of momentum to thrive off of.

Plus, it’s going to be hard for teams to keep up with the Noles. FSU’s up-tempo offense frustrated its victims throughout the ACC tournament. UNC, which desperately wanted to slow things down, was left zonked after its uncomfortable foot race.

With such a deep bench, FSU was able to keep its motor going and the legs churning.

“We were all coming off a third day of playing so we wanted to impose our will and try to let them know that they couldn’t outrun us,” forward Xavier Gibson said.

That sort of thing will come in handy during the Dance.

This team can shoot, too, with guards like Michael Snaer (ACC tournament MVP), Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys lighting it up from the floor. The Noles shot just under 60 percent against the Heels and shot no worse than 42 percent during its current five-game winning streak.

FSU is also hot from beyond on the arc after hitting 25 of 49 3s in the ACC tournament.

With as fast, physical and athletic as the Noles are, this will be a formidable group for any team to face in the coming weeks. Physically, this team is ready, but players want to make sure that once the celebration of Sunday’s win has subsided that this team is in the right frame of mind for another championship run.

“We can’t get satisfied with this,” James said.

For as sweet as Sunday’s win was, this team is still hungry.

“The ACC was just to let people know that we’re not a game, there’s no jokes no more,” Miller said. “We wanted to make a statement and today we did that.”

ATLANTA -- Florida State survived a vicious rally and a last-second 3-point attempt from top-seeded North Carolina to capture its first ACC tournament championship with a 85-82 win Sunday.

With the win, the Seminoles became the first team since Georgia Tech in 1995-96 to beat both Duke and North Carolina twice in the same season.

The Seminoles' up-tempo offense was too much for the Tar Heels to handle for most of the afternoon, but it also helped that FSU shot 58.9 percent from the field (33-of-56).

UNC matched FSU well in the second half, but a nine-point halftime deficit was too much for the Heels to overcome. Florida State also connected on 11 of 22 3-point shots, including four from both Michael Snaer and Deividas Dulkys.

Four Seminoles players -- Snaer, Dulkys, Luke Loucks and Ian Miller -- were all double-digit scorers.

Without forward John Henson, who was out with a sprained left wrist, UNC failed to have a consistent down-low presence on both ends of the floor.

Turning point: With UNC down one with 10 seconds left, point guard Kendall Marshall chucked a deep 3 that rimmed out and was rebounded by Dulkys. He was fouled and converted two free throws to put FSU up three with five seconds remaining.

Key player: Snaer scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting and hit 4 of 5 3-point attempts. He was also named the tournament MVP.

Key stat: Florida State shot 58.9 percent from the field Sunday and hit 11 of 22 3s.

Miscellaneous: This was North Carolina's ACC-leading 31st appearance in the ACC tournament championship game. ... Since Dulkys scored a career-high 32 points in the regular-season win over UNC, his best point total had been 14 points. He scored 16 Sunday. ... UNC's P.J. Hairston hit three 3s Sunday. Since hitting four against Monmouth on Jan. 1, Hairston had made only eight 3s heading into Sunday. ... FSU's Bernard James recorded five blocks. ... Both teams each scored 40 points in the paint. ... FSU's bench outscored UNC's 28-14.

What’s next: FSU's tournament chances were never in doubt, but with the win, it earned an automatic bid to the Big Dance. Now, the Noles will sit back and wait for their seeding fate. FSU could now be seriously considered for a No. 3 seed. UNC likely locked up a No. 1 seed with Duke's loss to the Noles on Saturday, but there could be some worry with Missouri capturing the Big 12 championship Saturday night.

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