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January 17, 2007Two seconds remained on the shot clock. The Florida State men's basketball team inbounded the ball against a Virginia Tech team trying to claw back into the game with four minutes left.
Al Thornton got the ball near half-court, turned around and uncorked a 38-foot jumper that swished through for three points to the frenzied cheers of the Tucker Center crowd.
Thornton laughed about the basket after the game, but during the second half of Florida State's Wednesday night 82-73 win over the 23rd-ranked Hokies, he was all business.
Thornton scored a Tucker Center record 27 points in the second half and pulled down 13 rebounds to lead the Seminoles (13-5) to their first ACC win of the season.
"That was about as good as it gets," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said of Thorton's second half. "It was obvious he was imposing his will on that team and on the game. He was getting rebounds in places most people have problems getting to. You could see it in his eyes."
After entering the second half with a 39-23 lead, Virginia Tech scored more points in the second half's first nine minutes than it did in the entire first half. Deron Washington's 3-pointer with about 11 minutes left in the game cut Florida State's lead to 50-47. Ninety seconds later, Coleman Collins' jumper cut Florida State's lead to one at 52-51.
But as the Hokies began to heat up, so did Thornton.
The senior missed his only shot of the first half, but scored the Seminoles' first basket of the second half and raced off from there. Thornton went 8-for-13 from the floor and 10-for-11 from the free throw line in the second half. Thornton also pulled down 11 rebounds in the second half and 13 for the game.
Thornton said the difference in between the first and second halves might have had to do with Virginia Tech's strategy. He felt the Hokies focused more on him in the first half, sending more people at him, than they did in the second. As for his scoring barrage, the quiet senior thanked his teammates for that.
"My teammates kept their confidence in me," he said. "They got me the ball in the right spots and I was able to execute."
At the game's start, it looked like Florida State would run away from Virginia Tech with its athleticism. FSU jumped to a 15-5 lead, but the Hokies pulled back into the contest by attacking the interior. Virginia Tech went on an 8-0 run ? six points coming from dunks ? to pull within two. But Florida State pulled away again, outscoring the Hokies 20-5 over the next 9:20.
Tech's shooting hands went from lukewarm to red-hot in the second half, allowing the Hokies to get back into the game. Virginia Tech shot 41 percent from the floor and 43 percent from the free throw line in the first half. The team shot 71 percent from the floor and 74 percent from the line in the second.
Even with the hot second half and wins over Duke and North Carolina in two of their three previous games, Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg was very disappointed in his team's performance.
"We got beat by a tougher, hungrier team that had a greater sense of urgency," Greenberg said.
Toney Douglas scored 22 points ? leading FSU in the first half with 14 ? to become the only other Seminole in double figures. Jason Rich added nine points and Isaiah Swann added eight.