Duke rallies but falls to FSU 62-59 in ACC final
By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA (AP) For the first time in four years, Duke left the ACC tournament with a loss.
Even so, coach Mike Krzyzewski called his players winners.
Duke overcame a 10-point second-half deficit before falling to Florida State 62-59 in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on Saturday.
"This tournament means a lot to us," Krzyzewski said. "It hurts to lose. But we lost right. You can lose wrong; we lost right."
The No. 17 Seminoles ended a run of three straight ACC tournament championships for No. 6 Duke (27-6), which had won 10 of the last 13 titles.
Florida State, the No. 3 seed, advanced to only the second ACC tournament championship game in the program's history. The Seminoles will face fourth-ranked and top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday.
Michael Snaer led Florida State with 16 points, including a 3-pointer with 3:27 remaining that gave the Seminoles the lead for good.
"I thought we grew up a little bit in that stretch when the game was in doubt," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton.
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.
"It was a heck of a game," Krzyzewski said. "I thought both teams competed so hard.
"I thought we adjusted to the physicality and the athleticism of the game. In the first half, they just knocked us back. ... I came out proud of our guys," Krzyzewski said. "They played winning basketball and when you lose playing winning basketball, just shake hands and thank God there is at least one more game ahead."
Duke could land a No. 2 seed when the NCAA tournament field is announced on Sunday.
Rivers led the Blue Devils with 19 points. Curry had 13.
But Duke didn't shoot it well, making only 5 of 20 3-pointers and only 19 of 51 shots (37.3 percent) overall.
"We got the shots we wanted," Curry said. "We were confident in our shots, but some went in and out. We are going to continue to run our offense, take the shots we have and stay confident. We have to get back in the gym and keep working."
A three-point play by Rivers gave Duke its last lead at 57-55. Snaer answered with his only 3-pointer of the game only 12 seconds later.
Snaer had a game-high six assists with two blocked shots and two steals before 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 Seminoles' only other appearance in the championship game came in 2009, also in Atlanta, when it lost to Duke.
Florida State took a 90-57 home win over North Carolina on Jan. 14.
Snaer said playing the Tar Heels in the tournament final will be a challenge.
"It's North Carolina. It's not going to be that easy," 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 put Duke in an early hole.
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