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February 27, 2008
For the first time this season, Florida State rolled off three consecutive ACC victories. Senior guard Jason Rich, who led all scorers with 21 points, was a big reason why FSU was able to defeat North Carolina State 72-62 on Wednesday night.
"I thought our players really stepped it up and showed a lot of character down the stretch," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Florida State improved to 17-12 overall and 6-8 in the ACC while NC State fell to 15-13 overall and 4-10 in conference play. The Wolfpack continued their late-season freefall having lost six straight games to slip to the bottom of the league standings after being picked in the preseason to finish third.
The victory didn't come easy for the Seminoles. After jumping out to a 19-point lead at 25-6 in the first half, it looked like FSU might extend it's two-game league winning streak with ease. While the Seminoles never relinquished the lead, the game did get interesting for a time.
After a small run by the Wolfpack in the final seven minutes of the first half, the 'Noles went into the locker room with a 33-24 lead.
"The first half fatigue was our enemy," Hamilton said. "We had a stretch there where we couldn't get our guys enough rest and fatigue set in. We lost a little bit of our defensive intensity."
The backcourt combination of Rich and Douglas kept Florida State in control for most of the game. Rich finished 7-for-16 from the field. Meanwhile, Douglas missed 11 of his first 13 shots before running off 11 points over a five-minute span - including a pair of three-pointers. That stretch gave the Seminoles a 52-44 lead with 9:39 left and kept Wolfpack playing catch-up.
When NC State managed to pull to within three, the Seminoles went on a 10-point spurt that effectively put the game away. The late run began with Ryan Reid's three-point play. Rich came through with two free throws followed by a dunk off his own steal before Ralph Mims knocked down a three-pointer to make it 62-49 with 4:42 left.
NC State got no closer than seven points from there.
"I actually thought that when we were as tired as we possibly could be towards the end of the game - I thought our players reached deep down inside and found some effort," Hamilton said. "We had some great steals. We contested. We got rebounds. We got free throws. We made big shots down the stretch. I thought we showed a lot of character tonight."
Mims added 12 points and was joined in double figures by forward Uche Echefu, who recorded a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Florida State out-rebounded the Wolfpack by double digits and turned the ball over only six times all evening, a season low. On the other side, the Wolfpack committed 12 turnovers. Those two stats were a big reason why FSU was able to win in Raleigh for the first time since 2005.
"There is no doubt that we realized this was an important game for us," Hamilton said. "I thought our guys gave tremendous effort."
Florida State returns to the court on Tuesday when they travel to Chapel Hill to face the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The AP contributed to this story.
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