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March 26, 2011
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - In the end, Cinderella made one more play. That was the difference between Florida State reaching the Elite Eight and going home for good.
Bradford Burgess got free off an inbounds play and banked a layup off the glass with seven seconds left to lift No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth (27-11) to a 72-71 triumph in overtime over No. 10 Florida State Friday night at the Alamodome in the NCAA Tournament Southwest Regional semifinals.
Playing from behind for most of the game, Florida State (23-11) rallied from separate nine-point deficits in the first and second halves to force the extra period. In the final seconds, Derwin Kitchen drove to the basket and instead of shooting a game-winning attempt, passed to Chris Singleton, who was forced to quickly fire up a jump shot that was blocked at the buzzer.
Kitchen led the Seminoles, which, with a win, would have played No. 1 Kansas with a spot in the Final Four on the line Sunday, with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Burgess finished with a game-high 26 for the surprising Rams, which are the only double-digit seed still alive in the tourney.
"It was heartbreaker. They got a layup on our defense and if you would have told us we had a chance to go to Elite Eight in that situation we would have been all for it," FSU guard Michael Snaer said. "I feel like nine out of ten times we'll get that situation right it was just one of those times that we didn't."
Singleton was in position to be the hero of the game. The junior hit a deep 3-pointer - from well beyond NBA range - in the final minute of regulation to force overtime. In the final minute of overtime, he drove along the baseline and threw down a one-handed dunk to put FSU up 71-70 with 29 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, VCU's Joey Rodriguez had his layup blocked underneath the basket by Bernard James, which set up Burgess' clutch basket. After both teams called timeouts, Rodriguez, the inbound passer, was having trouble finding anyone open. But, before a five-second call was made, Burgess got wide open under the basket, took a pass and banked it in for a surprisingly easy score against FSU's stout defense.
"We really thought they were going to run a different play," Singleton said. "It was up to four and half seconds and at the last second he got open."
Instead of calling a timeout, Kitchen raced down the left side of the court, drove to the basket, jumped and appeared to have a good opening for a game-winning shot. But, in midair, FSU's only senior opted to pass the ball to Singleton, who had to rush a desperation shot in the lane that was swatted away as time expired.
"We had a great opportunity at the end. Derwin was wide open and I'm not sure we could have got a better look," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He thought he kind of fumbled the ball a bit so he passed."
The hot shooting Rams hit 12 of 26 three-pointers (46.2 percent) compared to the 7 of 19 performance (36.8 percent) from the Seminoles from beyond the arc.
FSU dominated the glass, grabbing 47 rebounds to VCU's 32 and racked up 20 second-chance points.
In the first half, VCU threatened to pull away for good, going up 34-25 behind some strong outside shooting. But, a Snaer 3-pointer and a clutch 3-point play from Kitchen in the final minute of the period led to FSU cutting the deficit to 36-31 at the break.
FSU grabbed control with a 7-0 run to start the second half and took a 38-36 lead. But, VCU responded with six 3-pointers, including three straight by reserve Brandon Rozzell, to take a 62-39 lead with 7:37 left.
FSU's defense then came alive, limiting the Rams to just one field goal for the rest of the second half.
"We just didn't guard most of the game," James said. "Anytime a team is shooting that well they are going to be tough to beat. We didn't really start cracking down on defense until the last 10 minutes of the game. That's why it came down to one final play."
The Seminoles made many clutch plays of their own in what was a breakthrough season, which inlcuded their first win in an NCAA Tournament game since 1998 and an upset of No. 2 seed Notre Dame that got the program into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993.
"We have to be careful of not letting a disheartening loss define our season," Hamilton said. "We came a long ways. I think we have taken another step in the right direction."