Snaer, Seminoles beat Duke, 62-59, reach ACC final
By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) Florida State made a statement by building a double-digit second-half lead on Duke.
Then the Seminoles made another one when they lost it.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said his team learned something when the Blue Devils mounted their inevitable charge to erase the deficit.
"I thought we grew up a little bit in that stretch when the game was in doubt," Hamilton said.
Florida State advanced to only the second ACC tournament championship game in the program's history by beating Duke 62-59 on Saturday. Michael Snaer scored 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:27 remaining that gave the Seminoles the lead for good.
The 17th-ranked Seminoles will face No. 4 North Carolina, the tournament's top seed, on Sunday as they try to win their first championship.
Hamilton said he was impressed his team didn't lose its composure when the Blue Devils, the long-time power of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, made their run.
Florida State (23-9) recovered after blowing the 10-point lead and then had to survive some last-minute scares - including missed 3-point attempts by Duke's Austin Rivers and Seth Curry in the final six seconds.
Hamilton said the Seminoles "were not overly concerned" after losing a 43-33 lead.
"We knew we were doing a good job of getting opportunities," Hamilton said, adding he was confident his team could end its scoring drought with better execution.
A three-point play by Rivers gave Duke its last lead at 57-55. Snaer answered with his only 3-pointer of the game just 12 seconds later.
Snaer had a game-high six assists with two blocked shots and two steals, earning a big compliment from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"I love Snaer," Krzyzewski said. "He's just a damn good player. I think he's the best competitor in our league."
The second-seeded Seminoles ended a run of three straight ACC tournament championships for Duke (27-6), which had won 10 of the last 13 titles.
"This tournament means a lot to us," Krzyzewski said. "It hurts to lose. But we lost right. You can lose wrong; we lost right."
Rivers led the Blue Devils with 19 points. Curry had 13.
The Seminoles' only other appearance in the championship game came in 2009, also in Atlanta, when it lost to Duke.
Florida State pounded North Carolina 90-57 in Tallahassee on Jan. 14.
Snaer said playing the Tar Heels in the tournament final won't be so easy.
"It's North Carolina," Snaer said. "We've got to go out there and be the tougher team."
Florida State led 58-57 when it lost Ian Miller, who was called for a charge, his fifth foul. Duke's Mason Plumlee also fouled out less than a minute later, and Florida State's Luke Loucks made two free throws to push the lead to three points.
A layup by Rivers cut the lead to one point with 42 seconds remaining.
Loucks then dribbled the shot clock down before sinking a long jumper from the left wing.
Rivers, guarded closely by Snaer, missed a long 3-pointer with six seconds remaining. Following a turnover, a last-second attempt by Curry from just past midcourt banged off the rim, triggering the Seminoles' celebration.
"It was the longest three seconds of my life," Loucks said of the final play.
Mistakes helped Duke fall behind early. The Blue Devils, who average only 12 turnovers per game, gave the ball away 14 times in the first 20 minutes, leading to 17 points for Florida State.
Duke cleaned up its play, committing only two turnovers in the second half to finish with 16.
The Seminoles quickly added to their 33-31 halftime lead, scoring the first six points of the second half. Snaer penetrated the lane and lofted a short jumper to push the lead to 10 points.
Krzyzewski called his second timeout of the half and the Blue Devils responded with five straight points.
Suddenly the Seminoles showed signs of faltering.
Hamilton didn't panic.
"During that period we had good looks," Hamilton said. "It wasn't that we weren't getting good shots; we just missed some of them."
Updated March 10, 2012