By Jack Daly, McClatchy Newspapers –
ATLANTA — Luke Loucks helped Florida State fight off a staunch effort from Duke and earn a 62-59 win in the semifinals of the ACC tournament on Saturday afternoon at Philips Arena.
With the win, the third-seeded Seminoles (23-9) will face top-seeded North Carolina in Sunday’s final.
Seth Curry missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer from 35 feet that would have sent the game to overtime. Seconds earlier, Austin Rivers missed a contested three-pointer with Michael Snaer on him with about five seconds left that would have tied the score at 62. Duke stole the inbounds pass after Rivers’ miss, setting up Curry’s heave.
Loucks made two free throws after Mason Plumlee fouled with 1 minute remaining to put the Seminoles up three, 60-57.
Rivers made a nice play to get to the basket on Duke’s ensuing possession, laying the ball in with 42.6 seconds left to cut the deficit to one.
After a Blue Devils timeout, Loucks dribbled the ball for a while up top against Curry. Loucks called for a screen, which caused Josh Hairston to switch onto him. Taking advantage of the mismatch, Loucks pulled up a hit a long jumper with 11.9 seconds left to give FSU a 62-59 advantage. That set the stage for Rivers’ miss.
Halfway through the second half, it looked like the Seminoles may have a relatively easy time with the Blue Devils.
Florida State took a 47-40 lead after Bernard James made two free throws with 11:40, but Duke scored the next five points on a Miles Plumlee jumper, a Rivers free throw and another bucket from Plumlee.
The Seminoles went ahead by four on a layup by Bernard James before Rivers made two free throws to make the score 49-47 with 7:45 remaining. Okaro White then drove and dunked for the Seminoles before Seth Curry hit a step-back 3-pointer to bring Duke within one.
After Snaer put the Seminoles up three with a drive, Curry missed on an open 3-pointer. Duke came up with a defensive stop, however, and Plumlee tipped in a Curry miss to bring the Blue Devils within one.
When Curry made two free throws with 5:03 left, Duke led 54-53 for its first lead since the score was 22-20 in the first half.
The Seminoles quickly took the lead back with a Bernard James dunk before Rivers got to the basket on a drive against Deividas Dulkys, made the layup and was fouled. He converted the free throw to put the Blue Devils up 57-55 with 3:39 remaining.
Snaer then hit his most important shot of the game to that point, swishing a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put FSU back up 58-57. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called timeout with 2:55 left, but the Blue Devils’ ensuing play quickly broke down after Rivers inbounded the ball. Tyler Thornton took an open 3-pointer from the wing, but the shot didn’t draw rim.
FSU’s next possession ended Ian Miller picking up his fifth foul. Curry had a good look when Duke got the ball back, but his 3-pointer was short.