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January 26, 2008

Noles let another slip away: N.C. State 69, FSU 66

The Florida State men's basketball team lost another lead Saturday afternoon against North Carolina State. This time, though, the Seminoles couldn't get it back at game's end.

FSU let a 12-point first-half lead transform into a five-point halftime deficit against the Wolfpack. FSU regained the lead but gave it to N.C. State again with less than a minute to go in a 69-66 Seminoles loss.

The Seminoles (13-8, 2-4 in the ACC) led 66-63 with 40 seconds left when Courtney Fells banked in a 3-pointer to tie the game. Wolfpack (13-6, 2-3 in the ACC) freshman center J.J. Hickson then hit two free throws with 9.6 seconds left and blocked Toney Douglas' lay-up with two seconds left. Douglas had a chance to tie the game with time running out, but his half-court 3-point heave bounced off the rim.

FSU dropped back down the ACC standings, still suffering from the hot-and-cold play that has cost them four of the last five games.

Following a double-overtime loss to Clemson, the Seminoles led Duke late but couldn't hold on. They led by nine against Wake Forest before losing by 17. The lone bright spot came when FSU lost a five-point second half lead to Virginia and recovered to win by five.

FSU forward Uche Echefu said the Seminoles must recover in order to stay in the postseason hunt.

"We've just got to regroup and bounce back," he said. "It's going to be tough. We have to dedicate ourselves to whatever we're doing. We have to take every game seriously and play to win."

It looked like FSU was doing just that in the middle of the first half. Florida State hit three straight 3-pointers, two from Ralph Mims and one from Isaiah Swann, to take a 31-19 lead with 5:08 left in the first. But FSU went stone cold from there, missing all six of their shots and committing four turnovers in the last five minutes.

That streak, more than the end of the game, frustrated FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.

"All of a sudden, what was a 12-point lead has turned into a dogfight," he said. "You look at what happened at the end of the game and say it's unfortunate. It's easy to say that, but when you look at the ACC, every possession is important. We had five or six possessions when we had a 12-point lead that we just didn't execute well."

Florida State came back in the second thanks to Douglas and the free throw line. Douglas scored 15 of his game-high 17 in the second half and the Seminoles hit 14 of 16 second-half free throws. But they committed 15 turnovers against just nine assists and shot 37 percent from the field.

Hickson had a perfect shooting night, 5-for-5 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the line, with a game-high 10 rebounds and four blocks. Fells led N.C. State with 16 points. Three other Seminoles scored in double figures Swann with 10 and Mims and Uche Echefu with 14.

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