ATLANTA — Florida State sophomore guard Derwin Kitchen was having the kind of day you don't soon forget.
He had some shots blocked around the basket. He misfired on others. And he had a glut of turnovers, including a slip to the floor that gave the ball to Georgia Tech, which then regained the lead in the final minute.
"All game," he said, shaking his head, "I was playing bad."
But not when it mattered the most, which is the only thing folks are sure to remember.
Kitchen took an inbound pass from freshman guard Luke Loucks, curled to the baseline and drove in for a reverse layup and a foul for a three-point play with 7.7 seconds left that lifted the Seminoles to a 64-62 win against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Friday at the Georgia Dome.
The No. 22-ranked Seminoles (24-8), the fourth seed, advance to the semifinals for the first time since their debut in the league tournament in 1992 and meet top-seeded North Carolina.
The Tar Heels won the lone regular-season meeting between the teams, 80-77, in Tallahassee when point guard Ty Lawson hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Lawson, the ACC player of the year, is unlikely to play; he's nursing an injured right big toe and sat out UNC's hard-fought quarterfinal win.
"We're ready, we're motivated," said FSU senior guard Toney Douglas, the runnerup to Lawson in the voting for the league award. "They're the No. 1 team in the country, and this is the type of stage you want to be at. We're playing for something just like they're playing for something."
UNC is a sure-fire No. 1 seed in next week's NCAA Tournament, but it is going for a third straight league tournament title and an 18th overall. FSU, which is a virtual lock to make the NCAA field for the first time since 1998, has never made it to an ACC finale.
And it wouldn't have that chance today were it not for Kitchen's play.
At least, the way he played in the final seconds.
The No. 12-seeded Yellow Jackets (12-19), who upset No. 17 Clemson in their opener, scored the game's first basket but then trailed virtually the rest of the way. Senior guard Lewis Clinch (25 points) kept them close until, after Kitchen's fourth turnover, junior forward Zachery Peacock hit a tough turnaround jumper for a 62-61 lead with 29 seconds left.
During a timeout with 9.9 seconds left, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton drew up a play that had several options, including: A lob to redshirt freshman center Solomon Alabi; a pass outside to Douglas and let him go (he did have 25 points despite double teams); and a pass to Kitchen if he came open off a screen.
Which he did.
"Toney wanted the last shot, but he (Kitchen) was so open," said Loucks, a former Clearwater High star, adding that usually, Kitchen is a decoy.
"I knew my man was trailing me and I was going to have a clear line to the basket unless a big man was to help out," Kitchen said.
He clapped once and Loucks, confident in his teammate's ability to bounce back, bounced him the ball.
"We got a little out of position on the ball," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said of Kitchen being so free. "But he still had to make a tough shot. (Alade) Aminu is one of the best shot blockers around. He had four blocked shots today. He made a tough shot around Aminu, so give the kid credit."
Tech still had a chance with 7.7 seconds to force overtime or win the game with a 3-pointer, but freshman point guard Iman Shumpert's shot in the lane, which he had to arc over the leaping 7-1 Alabi, bounded off the back of the rim.
"Anybody would want to make a play when the opportunity's given," Kitchen said. "The opportunity was there for me to redeem myself for that bad game. …
"It feels real good. It's kind of bittersweet that I had a bad game and we almost lost, but at the same time, I made the play at the end."
Brian Landman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3347.