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FSU 85, DePAUL 80 // Seminoles survive, but Bulls finally fall

The Florida State Seminoles had too many reminders Saturday to purge a luckless loss from their memories.

They were playing in a huge dome, before a smattering of fans, with coach Pat Kennedy's voice reverberating off empty seats. And they were blowing a big lead.

But this time, the Seminoles didn't fall to a buzzer-beater, holding off a late DePaul rally to prevail 85-80 in the first game of the ThunderDome Shootout before an announced crowd of 5,236.

On Tuesday night, the Seminoles squandered a 14-point first-half lead to Tulane in New Orleans' Superdome, then seemingly had the game won before a desperation shot from the corner swished for a 78-77 Tulane victory and FSU's first loss.

Playing for the first time since that defeat, the Seminoles led throughout Saturday, building a 15-point second-half lead before seeing the Blue Devils make things interesting.

"We knew we couldn't give this one up," FSU point guard LaMarr Greer said. "We tried to turn that shot into a positive."

But it became more of a burden down the stretch.

"Most definitely," said FSU guard Avery Curry, who made six free throws in the final 1:48. "We have a good team like last year, but we couldn't finish. It seems like we stood around and waited for (former FSU star) Bobby (Sura) to do something.

"We try to play for 40 minutes, and this shows we can win as a young team."

The Seminoles (4-1) were up 63-48 with 13:24 to go. With 5:28 left, FSU led 75-64.

But DePaul cut the lead to 81-77 with 57 seconds to play on a driving layup by Juan Gay. After an FSU turnover, the Demons had a chance to cut the lead further. DePaul's Peter Patton missed a three-point attempt with 20 seconds remaining, and Curry iced the game with his last four free throws.

"I was proud of the way the kids came back," said DePaul coach Joey Meyer, whose team dropped to 3-3. "We're good enough to play with everybody. We're just not good enough to get over the hump."

The Seminoles manage to get over it but seem to struggle when they should coast downhill.

"We just didn't execute like we're supposed to; we had a couple of breakdowns," said FSU's James Collins, who had 22 points and six assists despite playing with a touch of the flu. "That gave them some easy buckets. But we're coming along. We're a young team, and we need experience playing these 40-minute games. We'll be a better team down the road because of a game like this."

The Seminoles had five players in double figures _ the balanced scoring Kennedy believes his team needs. Sophomore forward Corey Louis had 22 points and 10 rebounds, freshman Randell Jackson came off the bench to score 14 and grab 6 rebounds, and Greer had 11 points and 5 assists.

Curry finished with 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting but came through from the line.

"I knew I had to do something," Curry said. "The game was in my hands. I didn't make anything all night, so I knew I had to score. That helps my confidence a lot."

The Seminoles need a healthy dose of that entering their next game, at home Tuesday night against ninth-ranked Connecticut. And they will need to show up with a better defense to have any hope for an upset.

DePaul's Bryant Bowden scored a career-high 26 points, 20 in the first half. Jermaine Watts picked up the slack in the second half and finished with a game-high 27.

The Seminoles simply allowed too many uncontested shots and easy baskets.

"We got on our heels a little bit," Kennedy said. "They were running right at us, and we were playing too defensive. You still have to be aggressive. It's a learning experience. We need to start playing a 40-minute game."

Kennedy will take the victory nonetheless.

"I'm very happy for our kids after that Tulane game," Kennedy said. "When you get stunned like that, you wonder how a relatively young team is going to handle it. We were ahead from tap to finish, and we made the big plays when we had to."