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Big block helps Seminoles clip rivals

BY BRIAN LANDMAN

Times Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE - Florida State sophomore point guard Toney Douglas might be known for his shooting skills, but he showed Sunday night that he can play a little defense, too.

With the Seminoles clinging to a two-point lead in the waning moments against Florida, Douglas blocked guard Taurean Green's 3-point attempt that led to Al Thornton's clinching free throws for a 70-66 victory.

"I was just D-ing up," said Douglas, an Auburn transfer in his first year at FSU. "He'd been hitting 3s all night. I'd seen him get ready to shoot, and I jumped real high and hoped he didn't hit it."

When time ran out, thousands of students among the sellout crowd of 12,100, chanting "Over-rated" to mock the No. 4 Gators (7-2), poured onto the floor at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

FSU (5-2), coming off consecutive losses at then-No. 4 Pittsburgh and at No. 12 Wisconsin, needed a signature nonconference win on its resume.

"We missed two opportunities on the road, and any time you can get a nonconference victory against an outstanding team like the University of Florida, it can't do anything but help," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.

FSU moved the ball around the court, using its quickness and athleticism to offset Florida's size advantage in the post with forward Joakim Noah and center Al Horford. The Seminoles had a season-low 10 turnovers that UF turned into only eight points.

"We'd been on the road, and we didn't play well. We didn't play as a team," said Thornton, who had a season-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds. "We seemed like a bunch of selfish individuals out there ... but (tonight) we played with a rhythm on offense and defense."

Although the Gators shot well (54.5 percent), especially Green and sophomore guard Walter Hodge, in for mono-stricken Corey Brewer, they had 19 turnovers that FSU parlayed into 19 points. That helped the Seminoles build a 36-31 halftime lead and then open a 58-43 edge. Florida coach Billy Donovan, who had kept some of his struggling veterans such as Noah on the bench, put his starters back in for one last push.

A Noah tip-in and then a Hodge 3-pointer with 54 seconds left had Florida within 68-66. After Douglas missed a short runner, the Gators got the ball to Green, who was 8-for-16, 3-for-7 from 3-point range, to that point.

"Certainly, Taurean's challenged 3 is not what we wanted," Donovan said. "We wanted a throwback to Noah and let him put it on the floor or Taurean put it on the floor. It wasn't set up for a 3."

When Thornton saw the shot with six seconds left deflected, neither a cramping right hamstring nor Horford was going to keep him from the ball.

"I was going to get it. I knew I was going to get it," he said.

He did, drew a foul from Horford and swished both free throws to seal the win against Florida.

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or at (813) 226-3347.

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