TALLAHASSEE — By winning a physical game that saw one player receive stitches and Miami coach Frank Haith inadvertently slapped by a referee, Florida State moved one step closer to punching its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
And in the process, the Seminoles delivered a devastating blow to the Hurricanes' NCAA hopes.
"This is really big," said FSU forward Jordan DeMercy, who required three stitches after taking an elbow to the head in the Seminoles' 80-67 victory Wednesday night. "We're still not going anywhere off our seven (Atlantic Coast Conference) wins, but we have to build some momentum beating our rival like that."
With five regular-season games remaining, FSU (20-6, 7-4) is in a four-way tie for second place. The Hurricanes (15-10, 4-8) have lost six of seven and likely will need to win their last four to receive strong NCAA Tournament consideration.
In avenging a loss at UM, the Seminoles were relentless in attacking the Hurricanes' zone defense with dribble penetration and crisp passing. Led by seniors Toney Douglas (24 points) and Uche Echefu (18 points), the Seminoles drew 22 fouls and made 35 trips to the free-throw line.
Douglas connected on 14 of 15 free throws, Echefu 9 of 10.
"They just drove us, and they got to the free-throw line," said Haith, who took an accidental slap to the face when referee Les Jones waved off a second-half shot. "They got 20 points off the free-throw line in the second half. They drove us and we fouled them."
FSU's defense on Miami star Jack McClinton was equally effective. The senior shooting guard had scored more than 30 points in each of the Hurricanes' past three games — against North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest — but he mustered only 13 on 5-of-12 shooting.
McClinton was harassed throughout the game by Douglas, DeMercy and Deividas Dulkys, who took turns trying to limit his touches.
"We tried to keep a fresh guy on him," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team is trying to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 10 years. "Everybody guarded him. We knew that he had scored 30 points in three straight games. We had to give him his proper respect."
UM guard James Dews scored 19 in a losing effort, and guard Derwin Kitchen added 13 points for FSU.