CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It took five seconds for Sam Cassell and Florida State to announce the program's arrival as the ninth member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.That's how long it took Cassell, the 6-foot-3 guard from Baltimore's Dunbar High, to hit a three-pointer against North Carolina at the Dean E. Smith Center in the Seminoles' first ACC game.
Cassell, who led all scorers, had 22 points, 16 in the first half, as the Seminoles employed superior perimeter quickness and opportunistic rebounding to shock the Tar Heels, 86-74.
"I would have to say this probably ranks among the greatest moments and greatest victories in Florida State history," coach Pat Kennedy said.
Florida State is 4-1. Fifth-ranked North Carolina suffered its first loss in seven starts.
The Seminoles jumped to a 10-1 lead in the game's first three minutes. North Carolina rallied to regain the lead midway through the half on three consecutive three-pointers by guard Hubert Davis. A follow basket by center Eric Montross pushed the lead to 28-23 with 9 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first half.
The lead seesawed until Florida State regained the advantage for good at 36-33 on a three-pointer by guard Charlie Ward at the 3:46 mark. The visitors led 46-39 at halftime.
North Carolina moved within 49-44 on a George Lynch follow shot a minute and a half into the second period. But the Tar Heels scored only once in their next 14 possessions, committing seven turnovers in the process. That enabled the Seminoles to mount a 15-2 run and their largest lead, 64-46, with 10:43 remaining.
North Carolina came back to within 71-67 on a Montross follow with 3:37 to go. But at that point, the Tar Heels, rather than the Seminoles, lost their composure, and by game's end, the air was filled with the cheering of the handful of Florida State fans in the rapidly emptying center.
It was the 12th meeting between the schools, and only the second victory by Florida State. The first came 20 seasons ago in the Final Four. Then, too, the Seminoles exploited their quickness against a favored Smith squad that had an advantage in height and depth.
"We knew going into the game that we were quicker than their guards," said Cassell, who scored 16 of his team's first 23 points. "We were going to run a three-guard offense and do our thing."
The Florida State strategy was dictated in part by the absence of starting forward Douglas Edwards, the team's leading rebounder, and reserve forward Ray Donald. Both had been suspended for one game for their part in a brawl last weekend in a game against Florida A&M. On a recruiting trip to North Carolina last Monday, Kennedy also got a few pointers from former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano, for whom he had served as an assistant at Iona College.
Kennedy spread the court on offense and repeatedly sent men on cuts to the basket. Often, the Tar Heels were too slow to compensate. When they did collapse inside, the Seminoles passed the ball to the perimeter, where their shooters made seven of 15 from three-point range.
Wing guard Chuck Graham had 19 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Ward, a reserve quarterback on the Florida State football team who joined the basketball squad on Dec. 1, added 18.
Defensively, the Seminoles concentrated on stopping Davis, who finished with 21 points. "They covered Hubert and let everybody else have easy shots," Smith said. "We seemed awful tight on our shots. We'll take those shots most games."
Smith spoke to the media minutes after learning his father, Alfred Smith, 93, had died earlier in the day of a heart attack.
North Carolina, which came into the game hitting 52.9 percent of its shots, made 42.6 percent against FSU. Davis hit seven of 12 three-pointers; his teammates were one of 15.
The Seminoles also controlled the rebounding, holding a 24-13 edge at halftime and 42-36 overall.
"I think we surprised them," Cassell said. "We're going to be competitive in the ACC."