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Surprise, Surprise! // No. 17 UNC catches inconsistent Florida State on the wrong day

Searching for some consistency, Florida State played 40 minutes of great basketball Saturday.

With no long dry stretches, no choked free throws and no missed box-outs, FSU upset No. 17 North Carolina 84-80 in the Dean Smith Center.

The first time the teams met this season, FSU went scoreless for seven minutes. Nothing doing this time. But considering such an up-and-down level of play, the question asked after the game was: Can FSU play like that consistently?

"This is the real Florida State team," proclaimed James Collins, who scored a game-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting, in cluding 5 of 7 three-pointers.

The victory pulled FSU (13-11, 5-9) into a temporary tie with Virginia for seventh place in the ACC and broke a nine-game losing streak against the Tar Heels (19-8, 9-5).

The variables in FSU's search for consistency have been on the bench recently. Coach Pat Kennedy returned from a one-game suspension, but assistant coach Tom Carlson, who coached in Kennedy's place Thursday, was not with the team because his father died last week. Carlson is in New Jersey with his family.

Forward Kirk Luchman said he and his teammates were glad to have Kennedy back, but that the team dedicated the game to Carlson.

Actual dedication to play steady basketball turned out to be the key for FSU.

Only Collins has scored consistently this season, though he often has done so with poor shooting. No other Seminole is averaging in double figures in ACC play.

Carolina spotted the Seminoles a 10-0 lead when it started its seniors, including two walk-ons and a seldom-used reserve, on Senior Day. And when the Tar Heels challenged, Collins stepped up.

When North Carolina cut the lead to 15-13, Collins hit a three-pointer and a lay-in in a 7-0 run.

When UNC took its only lead at 44-43 just before halftime, Collins stole an outlet pass and made a three-pointer at the buzzer.

When UNC cut the lead to 57-56, FSU called time and set up a shot for Collins. He came off a double screen and hit a three-pointer in the corner with 13:08 left.

"That really hurt," said UNC's Vince Carter, who had a hand in Collins' face on the play.

Kennedy said Collins has played great the past four games and that the three-pointer swung the game FSU's way for good.

"At that timeout, the players said J, we need a bucket, and we worked it into the offense," Collins said. "Basically, the last few games teams have not been playing me with a box-and-one (zone) and I've been able to do some things."

The Seminoles have improved on offense since freshman Geoff Brower entered the starting lineup earlier this month. Brower scored 17 points in consecutive games, but then his scoring dropped off.

On Saturday, Brower bounced back and made 5 of 5 three-pointers en route to 17 points. FSU also got a lift from Luchman, who enjoyed a second straight strong outing with 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting.

"When they play like that, they can beat anyone," UNC coach Dean Smith said. It was a leading statement, almost begging the question: Can FSU play like that consistently?