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March 8, 2007

Seminoles edge Clemson in bubble battle

TAMPA, Fla. - Al Thornton's free throw with 1.5 seconds remaining capped a 25-point, 11-rebound performance and gave Florida State a 67-66 victory Thursday over Clemson in the opening game of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Thornton, the ACC's leading scorer and runner-up for conference player of the year, carried the ninth-seeded Seminoles (20-11) down the stretch. His block at one end of the floor denied Clemson what looked like a sure basket, then drove the baseline on the other end for a dunk that tied the game for the last time.

Florida State advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against top seed North Carolina. The Seminoles also bolstered their case for a berth in the NCAA tournament, while Clemson (21-10) may have eliminated itself from contention by losing for the 10th time in 14 games after starting season 17-0.

Jason Rich scored 12 points for Florida State, which rallied from a 66-61 deficit with a 3-pointer from Toney Douglas and Thornton's dunk. Clemson's Cliff Hammonds turned the ball over with 8.3 seconds left, and the Tigers' K.C. Rivers fouled Thornton in the lane with the Florida State star trying to get off a potential game-winning shot.

Thornton, coming off a career-high 45-point performance in an overtime victory over Miami, missed the first free throw but made the second.

Trevor Booker led Clemson with 18 points and nine rebounds. Hammonds finished with 16 points and Vernon Hamilton added 13 for the Tigers.

Clemson swept the season series between the teams, winning 68-66 in Tallahassee on Jan. 3 and 71-58 at home on Feb. 7, when Florida State lost Douglas - the Seminoles' floor leader - with a broken bone in his right hand.

The sophomore point guard missed his team's next five game, and Florida State lost four of them to put their prospects for a spot in the NCAAs in doubt. Douglas returned the regular season finale against Miami and played without a protective wrap on his hand Thursday.

Thornton made seven of his first nine shots and finished 9-for-16. He had 18 points at the half, and his long 3-pointer put the Seminoles ahead 38-36 at the break. There were 12 lead changes in the second half, with neither team leading by more than five.

For more coverage of the Florida State Seminoles, check out Warchant.com; for more on the Clemson Tigers, check out TigerIllustrated.com.

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