Jan. 9, 2009
By Scott Kotick, Seminoles.com
January 24, 1993. No .6 Duke arrived in Tallahassee for what proved to be one of the most exciting games in Florida State basketball history.
In front of 13,000 fans, the Blue Devils came into the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center with some of the premier names in college basketball history, as Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner all suited up in those famous blue jerseys and shorts.
Not to be outdone, Florida State boasted four future first round NBA draft picks in their starting lineup with Bob Sura, Sam Cassell, Doug Edwards, and Charlie Ward.
Yet it was a lesser-known 6-10 forward from Tampa who provided the fireworks for one of the most exciting games in Florida State History.
Down 88-86 in overtime with just a few seconds left on the clock, Florida State’s Byron Wells took a swing pass from Sam Cassell to the left wing and rattled home a 3 pointer giving the Seminoles their first win against Duke in school history.
Although that was 15 years ago, Wells remembers that play like it was yesterday.
“We were just trying to remain composed, a lot of people forget that there was a second and a half left on the clock after that shot,” Wells said. “You don’t think about it when you shoot it, you just sort of react…the less the you think about it the better.”
After that famous shot, Duke inbounded the ball and Florida State great Charlie Ward stepped in front of the pass and fans stormed out onto the court to celebrate Florida State’s 89-88 win over the Blue Devils.
And at the center of it all was Wells–one of six Seminoles to score in double digits that day.
“The magnitude of it all really didn’t sink in until I got home and had 90 messages on my message machine,” Wells said. “The tape had run out and there were messages from people I hadn’t heard from in years. It was just so exciting and overwhelming.”
Since that historic 1993 win, the Seminoles have defeated Duke five times, including one at Cameron Indoor Stadium and a few memorable buzzer beaters in Tallahassee.
Fast forward 13 years later as No. 1 Duke visited the Tucker Center to be greeted by All-American Al Thornton. The future first round NBA draft pick scored a game high 26 points while Alexander Johnson added 22 points of his own to give the Seminoles a 79-74 win over the Blue Devils as Seminole fans bull rushed the court before the game was over. That win ended Duke’s run at an undefeated season.
The next year, the Seminoles traveled up to Durham, N.C. and defeated the No. 8 Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor for the first time in school history behind Thornton’s 21 points and both Toney Douglas and Uche Echefu scoring in double figures.
As the No. 2 Blue Devils prepare to visit the Tucker Center this Saturday, the Seminoles are reminded of the history between the two schools and the importance of the beginning of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
“All ACC games, not just Duke, we go out and give our best,” FSU forward Ryan Reid said. “We’re trying to do really good in our conference and I just think it’s a tough place for Duke to play.”
And much like the senior-laden team in 1993, leadership will be the key to this year’s matchup.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since our last loss and this whole season actually,” FSU guard Toney Douglas said. “We can’t let the pressure speed us up and whoever is going to be the toughest team and have the most energy will win the game.”
And a win on Saturday would start the 2009 ACC season on a high note–something that Byron Wells knows all too well as the 1992-1993 Seminoles advanced to the Elite Eight.
“After that game, we said `let’s just take this and go forward,'” Wells said. “Like any great win it gives you confidence. It gave us national attention and momentum going into the rest of the ACC season.”
And that momentum is key as Florida State starts ACC play and makes a run at their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998. There is nothing like the start of another ACC season, but with Duke coming to town, the Tucker Center will be that much more electric.
And you can expect Byron Wells to be there–sitting in that famous left corner that became the start of something special for Florida State basketball.