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March 9, 2007
UNC throttles Thornton and Florida State
TAMPA, Fla. -Wayne Ellington scored 18 points and Ty Lawson had 14 to lead No. 8 North Carolina to a 73-58 victory Friday over Florida State in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The Tar Heels' balanced attack was simply too much for the Seminoles' one-man show, Al Thornton. FSU never led, and Thornton - the ACC's leading scorer and runner-up for conference player of the year - scored 12 points before fouling out with more than 6 minutes to go.
North Carolina (26-6), hoping to win its first ACC tournament title since 1998, advanced to Saturday's semifinals and reversed a trend of upsets in the tourney. The higher seeded team lost every game in the first round.
The Tar Heels, the No. 1 seed after tying Virginia for the league's best regular-season record, pulled away for good during an 18-2 run that built their lead to 48-28 early in the second half. The closest Florida State (20-12) got was 12.
Brandan Wright scored 11 points and Reyshawn Terry had 10 for North Carolina, which had lost two of three entering the tournament to raise questions about whether they had done enough to ensure themselves a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Tyler Hansbrough, whose nose was broken when he was elbowed during the closing seconds of North Carolina's victory over Duke last Sunday, wore a protective mask and scored six points on 3-for-7 shooting before fouling out late in the game.
Thornton didn't score easily against the Tar Heels, finishing 4-of-13 from the field.
In the opening round on Thursday, he had 25 points and made a free throw with 1.5 seconds left to give Florida State a 67-66 victory over Clemson. He had 29 points and 12 rebounds in a 26-point loss to the Tar Heels in the regular season.
FSU cut an 11-point deficit to four in the closing minutes of the opening half, but a lapse in the final 10 seconds helped the Tar Heels regain control. Ellington's jumper looked like it would give North Carolina an eight-point lead at the break, however Lawson's steal under the Seminoles basket led to Deon Thompson's layup at the buzzer to push the advantage to 36-26.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton made the situation worse, arguing that a foul should have been called on Lawson's steal. He was whistled for a technical, Ellington made both free throws at the start of the second half, and the Tar Heels scored on three straight possessions to finish a 14-0 run that began late in the first half to put them up 44-26.
Two baskets by Lawson finished the 18-2 surge.