Feb. 7, 2009
CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) – The only ones rushing Littlejohn Coliseum’s court after this one were the joyous Florida State Seminoles.
Two nights after No. 10 Clemson throttled Duke 74-47 and touched off a wild, orange-clad celebration, the Tigers let a 19-point second-half lead slip away in the Seminoles’ 65-61 victory Saturday night.
Toney Douglas had 23 points, including 12 in Florida State’s 23-4 run the final 9 minutes. When it ended, the Tigers (19-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) and a sold-out crowd walked away in disbelief over what they watched.
“We just didn’t keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Clemson senior K.C. Rivers said. “Wednesday night, we kept our foot on the gas pedal. We seen (Duke) getting weak, we took advantage of it.
“Tonight, we didn’t do that,” Rivers added. “We seen them getting weak, we let them back in it. We gave them life.”
Douglas, who came in as the ACC’s third-leading scorer, looked way off his game, held to six points in the first half and knocked around by Clemson’s swarming defense.
However, he kept telling his teammates they were too good to miss shots as often as they were – the Seminoles shot 30 percent in the first half – when Clemson built its lead.
Douglas preached offensive patience and defensive tenacity. “We got to score on offense eventually. We’ve got to score and stop, score and stop,” Douglas said. “That was our gameplan.”
It couldn’t have worked any better as Florida State won at Clemson for the first time since 2001 after seven straight losses.
Number eight looked inevitable.
The Tigers were still flying high after the Duke win and had pushed their way to a 44-25 lead with 15 minutes to go. Florida State (18-5, 5-3) gave Clemson something the Blue Devils couldn’t, though: a second-half fight.
The Tigers were still ahead 57-42 on Trevor Booker’s 3-pointer with 9 minutes left when Douglas and the Seminoles got going.
Solomon Alabi had 17 points, including a turnaround jumper with 2:03 left that put the Seminoles ahead for good.
Clemson, which opened the season 16-0, could not recover. Douglas said once Florida State got the lead, the Tigers had trouble answering back.
“They were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re down one, now we’re down three,”‘ Douglas said, smiling.
Alabi, a 7-foot-1 freshman, also had nine rebounds and five blocks.
Booker and Demontez Stitt had 11 points each to lead Clemson.
At first, the Tigers and kept the good feelings going from the Duke win.
Raymond Sykes jammed home the Tigers’ first bucket to the same thunderous applause he and his teammates got on several highlight reel dunks three nights earlier.
By the time Booker added his own high-flying jam that again brought the house down, Clemson was up 23-10 with 9:24 left in the first half – and seemingly on the way to another Blue Devil-style rout.
The Tigers and Douglas foreshadowed what happened at the end in the opening half.
Clemson went the final five minutes of the period without scoring, while Douglas, who had only three points in the opening half, hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to send Florida State into the locker room down just 30-22.
Then, with the sounds of a sold-out Littlejohn crowd ringing in their ears after Booker’s 3-pointer, the Seminoles got going.
Alabi began the comeback with an inside bucket, then Douglas hit a jumper. He added a 3-pointer moments later and Florida State trailed 57-51.
Luke Loucks’ 3-pointer, his only basket, cut the lead to one and Alabi hit the eventual game winner for Florida State.
Clemson had chances to respond. Terrence Oglesby missed an open 3-pointer and David Potter a driving shot in the lane. Douglas secured the win with five free throws in the final 43 seconds.
Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton wished he could spend more time savoring his team’s second road win over a top-10 opponent in three seasons – Florida State won at No. 8 Duke on Feb. 4, 2007. Instead, he’s already pointing to his game with Virginia on Tuesday.
“This is still a team that’s growing and developing. We’ve got to enjoy it, but we’ve got to keep everything in proper perspective,” he said.
The Tigers have a different perspective. Two years back, they squandered a 61-46 second half lead with nine minutes left and lost to Virginia here.
Clemson coach Oliver Purnell thought he’d seen the last of such giveaways.
“This is a very disappointing loss,” he said. “On our home court, in a game we had some control of in the second half.”