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FSU beats second straight Top 10 team

Florida State senior guard Tim Pickett is known for his offense, and once again on Sunday he didn't disappoint at that end of the floor.

But don't ever forget about his ferocity on defense.

The No. 10-ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons sure won't.

Not only did Pickett score all of his 18 points in the second half, he shut down hot-shooting point guard Chris Paul down the stretch, then partially blocked guard Taron Downey's potential winning jumper in the final 20 seconds to key a historic 75-70 win Sunday afternoon.

"He was tremendous," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "No question."

For the first time, the Seminoles (14-5, 3-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) beat Associated Press Top 10 teams in consecutive games. They rallied from 24 down to stun No. 7 North Carolina 90-81 in overtime Thursday night. It also is the first time since 2000-01 that FSU has won consecutive ACC games.

Just like Thursday, hundreds of the students among a raucous crowd of 10,476 at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center stormed to midcourt to celebrate. It's not a tiring sight for the Seminoles, who have enjoyed only occasional shining moments since their last NCAA Tournament berth in 1998.

"I have to be cautious because I know we're still developing that focus, that energy, that spirit that you need to have to be successful," Hamilton said. "We're better now than when we had that 10-in-a-row run. I had to be the most unhappy 10-0 coach in the country because I realized that we still had not grown to the point where we could be as competitive against people of this caliber. Now, we're moving in the right direction."

Why? What are the Seminoles doing differently than when they lost games in the waning moments against North Carolina State, Clemson and Virginia?

"We're just depending on each other when we get behind and we've really been doing that the last two games and not giving up," Pickett said. "That's the main thing that's bringing more togetherness to this team."

Fresh off a 30-point performance against UNC, Pickett picked up his second foul with 10:25 left in the first half and did not return. He had missed both of his shots and was scoreless. Wake Forest led 15-10 at the point, but Pickett's supporting cast stepped into leading roles.

Senior point guard Nate Johnson, nursing a sore right knee, scored 14 (on 4 of 5 shooting), and reserve junior forward Adam Waleskowski made all four of his field goals to add 12 of his career-high 16 points. They kept the Seminoles within 37-36 at halftime.

"A lot of people say, "You've got to shoot, do this and that,' " said Johnson, who finished with a game-high 19 points and seven assists.

"When Tim got two fouls, coach said somebody has to step up. I had some good looks and I just took the shots and they fell tonight."

But with the dazzlingly quick Paul taking over, the Demon Deacons (11-4, 2-3), who had beaten FSU seven straight times, opened a 63-55 lead with 9:16 left.

They hit 10 of 11 shots in the half, looking like a team sure to end a three-game skid. (They had lost at Texas, at Duke and to visiting Georgia Tech, all nationally ranked.) But the Seminoles stiffened defensively, thanks largely to Pickett switching over to Paul.

Paul finished with a team-high 17 points but had neither a point nor an assist in the final 4:59. Wake Forest would make just three of its last 12 field-goal attempts.

"He did a real good job," Paul said of Pickett.

At the same time, Pickett took control offensively. He scored nine down the stretch.

"One of our goals was not to let Pickett beat us, but in the second half, despite a couple of different guys we had on him, a couple of different defenses we played, he obviously made several big shots," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser lamented.

After he hit a fastbreak layup with 1:20 left, Pickett forced Paul to misfire on a drive. Sophomore guard Todd Galloway got the rebound, was fouled and hit both free throws to give FSU a 71-70 lead, its first advantage of the half.

Pickett only got better. Instead of fighting through a screen at the opposite end, he switched with Galloway and picked up Downey. Downey tried to go by him along the right baseline and got within 5 feet of the basket with 20 seconds left.

"I was just trying to make a play happen and came up short," Downey said, adding that Pickett got the ball from behind.

"I thought he was going to call a foul," Pickett said. "He double-pumped and I brushed (the ball). It should be on the stats."

Waleskowski got the rebound and, admitting he said a little prayer, made both free throws. Guard Justin Gray then missed a tying 3-pointer and Pickett got the rebound, sealing the win with two free throws and touching off another party as only he can do.

Just ask Wake Forest.