Jan. 14, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — “I think somebody said if I wake up tomorrow, it was awesome; if not … it was a dream.”
For Deividas Dulkys and the Florida State men’s basketball team, Saturday — from early morning to early evening — was real. For No. 3 North Carolina, it was too real.
The Seminoles upset the visiting Tar Heels, 90-57, at the Donald L. Tucker Center capping off a day that started before the sun ever rose when fans began lining up outside the arena for a chance to be in the crowd during ESPN’s live College Gameday broadcast.
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
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It ended with opposing coaches Leonard Hamilton and Roy Williams agreeing that it would be safer if UNC’s players on the bench exited the floor with 14.2 seconds remaining to avoid potential injury from the swarms of ‘Noles fans that would eventually rush the court in euphoric fashion.
North Carolina (15-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) found itself in that peculiar and unfamiliar position because of FSU’s stifling defense and Dulkys’ can’t-miss shooting effort. The Lithuanian-born senior had the best game of his career, scoring 32 points on 12-of-14 shooting from the floor — including an 8-of-10 mark from 3-point range.
“It’s great,” Dulkys said, continuing his quote about the dream scenario as he looked back on his effort in the post-game interview room. “I think everybody dreams about it when you are a little kid and I’m sure I had my moment like that too and it was my time to shine.”
Dulkys exited the court to a standing ovation from the sold-out Seminoles crowd a few moments before UNC’s players left early for the locker room.
He left to the sound of those fans chanting his name after they had watched him start the game with a 3-pointer that put the ‘Noles on top for good. FSU never trailed after that bucket and UNC in turn sustained its largest margin of defeat since 2003.
“I’ve never had that,” Dulkys said about his memorable retreat to the bench. “I heard that and I kind of got sentimental about it.”
“Deividas is a very hard worker, a great teammate, a great student-athlete,” Hamilton added. “He tries so hard that sometimes when he misses that first shot, he gets a little tight. … I thought he relaxed tonight and played with an extreme amount of confidence and gave us a performance that we needed for us to be successful.”
The Florida State (11-6, 2-1) defense didn’t hurt either.
UNC — the nation’s leader in scoring prior to Saturday’s upset — was held to a season-low scoring total of 57. The Tar Heels also shot a season-worst 37.3 percent from the field and their bench players were outscored by FSU’s reserves 24-8.
FSU also out-rebounded UNC, 41-33, and forced 21 Carolina turnovers while notching 12 steals
The ‘Noles’ stout defense set up what was the team’s best offensive performance of the season. En route to a season-high 90 points, FSU shot 48.4 percent overall and 44.4 percent from 3-point range.
“Our offense comes from our defense,” Dulkys said. “We get steals, we can push the ball [and] get easier baskets. Everybody played the way we are capable of. We defended, we boxed out … it was a defensive effort by everybody. Everybody came into the game and did their job.”
The Seminoles started the game on a 9-2 run and led by as many as 12 in the first half before taking a 36-28 lead into the break. FSU then ran away with the upset victory that snapped UNC’s nine-game winning streak thanks to a 30-8 run to start the second half.
The ‘Noles now host Maryland on Tuesday at 9 p.m.
“In order for this game to be meaningful,” Hamilton said, “we need to continue stacking on these types of games.”