Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 3/11/12
ATLANTA Florida State put in so much work during its three-day weekend, holding off Miami, Duke and now North Carolina, that when it was all over, the Seminoles just soaked it all in. Every moment was clearly cherished. Raising the trophy. Cutting down the nets. Michael Snaer sitting atop one of the basketball rims for the team photo. Florida State had never had much success in the ACC tournament. It reached the title game in 2009 but had gone 9-20 in the conference tournament before Friday. Now, the Seminoles have had their day on the big stage and celebrated the program's first ACC tournament title. Florida State used a barrage of 3-pointers 11 of them, including four apiece from Snaer and Deividas Dulkys to claim an 85-82 victory over No. 4 North Carolina on Sunday in the ACC tournament championship game. Luke Loucks had a championship-game record 13 assists. Snaer finished with 18 points, and Dulkys had 16 points as Florida State (24-9) broke through the seven-year Duke-North Carolina run of ACC tournament titles. "I'm sure as time goes on, maybe it will sink in and maybe there is validation out there that I'm really not thinking about," said Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton, who rebuilt the struggling program he took over in 2002. "I just wanted my guys to give their best shot, give all they had in this particular game." Florida State gave its best shot Sunday, making 50 percent (11 of 22) of its 3-point attempts and 58.9 percent (33 of 56) shots overall from the floor. It was the first time all season that North Carolina had allowed any team to surpass the 50 percent shooting mark. The Seminoles won the title by navigating a brutal, three-games-in-three-days stretch, knocking off Miami on Friday and then No. 6 Duke on Saturday before polishing off the Tar Heels (29-5). "I think it's a great accomplishment, just because their history is so rich," Loucks said of beating Duke and North Carolina in the ACC tournament. "Not only to beat them, but to have an opportunity to play those teams on this stage. It even goes back a couple of years ago, when coach Hamilton brought us in. He said, You can really change the culture of Florida State basketball.' "We're stepping in the right direction and doing that and making our mark. We're not some random team from Florida." That's what this championship gives Florida State. It's more than a trophy. It has shown the ACC and college basketball fans that Florida State is more than a football school. The Seminoles have also done something remarkable: It has upset Duke and North Carolina two times each this season. That's four wins over top-10 programs in a span of two months. On Sunday, Florida State pulled ahead 49-40 at the half as Snaer had 15 points (on six of eight shooting) and Dulkys made three 3-pointers. The Seminoles held on despite multiple comebacks in the second half by North Carolina, which never could reclaim the lead after halftime. The Seminoles led by 14 points on two occasions, the last a 62-48 advantage after Jon Kreft's dunk with 14:38 to go. Florida State and North Carolina traded shot for shot the rest of the way. The Tar Heels clawed back into the game, providing for a dramatic finish that energized the partisan Tar Heels crowd of 19,520 at Philips Arena. Bernard James had five blocks, including two in the final minute, to turn away North Carolina scoring chances. But Kendall Marshall's 3-pointer closed the Tar Heels' deficit to 83-82 with 31 seconds left. Marshall missed another 3-pointer with six seconds to go, and Dulkys grabbed the rebound. He was fouled seconds later, and made both free-throw attempts as the Seminoles secured an 85-82 lead. North Carolina took a timeout to set up an inbounds play from midcourt for a 3-point shot. The Tar Heels got the ball to P.J. Hairston, who couldn't get off a clean shot with Loucks in his face. "The resiliency of this team is impressive," Loucks said. "That's what you hope for a veteran-laden team that has been through a lot." And saying that Florida State has "been through a lot" may be an understatement. The Seminoles lost to Harvard and Princeton and then fell at Clemson by 20 points in the ACC opener. They were 9-6 at that point. But the Seminoles kept finding ways to win, kept making the big shot when they needed it most including the three buzzer-beating 3-pointers by Snaer (against Duke and Virginia Tech) and Ian Miller (at Virginia). Florida State is going into the NCAA tournament having won five straight games and 15 of 18 overall. The Seminoles enjoyed their crowing achievement Sunday. And later this week, they will be a team nobody will want to face in the NCAA tournament. By virtue of the ACC tournament title, FSU was awarded a No. 3 seed and will open against No. 14 seed St. Bonaventure on Friday in Nashville, Tenn. If the Seminoles win, they will face the Cincinnati-Texas winner for a spot in the Sweet 16. With all of the hurdles FSU has faced in a trying and triumphant season, a No. 3 seed was a welcome reward. "I am extremely proud of our players and the fact that we've been through a lot of ups and downs through the course of the year," Hamilton said. "The thing I'm most proud of is that they've shown a tremendous amount of character."
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