TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The smell of the recently departed circus filled Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center. So did the largest crowd in Florida State basketball history, the 13,610 in attendance more than 1,200 above capacity.
But just when the Seminoles, the surprise team in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, seemed poised to make it a night to remember, Duke's defense and sophomore forward Grant Hill seized center stage, enabling the top-ranked Blue Devils to escape with a 75-62 win.
The win pushed Duke's record to 16-0, matching the best start in school history. It was also Duke's eighth win in ACC competition, andits second this year over Florida State. The Seminoles, whose six-game winning streak was broken, dropped to 13-5, 5-3 in the ACC.
"It seemed like all of our veterans made big plays," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "I thought in the last three minutes of the game, our experience of playing together was outstanding. Our guys were terrific in the last three minutes, hitting free throws, coming up with the defensive boards, and Grant Hill made a couple of defensive plays."
FSU led by 11-4 within the game's first three minutes, the largest deficit Duke had faced this year. But the Blue Devils quickly regained control and, despite being unable to shake FSU, led for most of the contest.
The final tie came at 62 at the 3:19 mark when Duke's Christian Laettner made the second of two free throws.
Florida State held the ball until 20 seconds remained on the shot clock, only to see guard Charlie Ward miss inside against Duke's Thomas Hill. Attacking out of a half-court offense, Grant Hill drove the lane and scored at the other end with 2:21 left to put Duke ahead to stay.
Florida State guard Sam Cassell (Dunbar) then threw a pass that was intercepted in traffic as the Seminoles again tried to run time off the shot clock before attempting to score. He fouled Laettner, who made one of two free throws for the last of his 20 points.
Then Hill made the play of the game.
Moments earlier, the 6-foot-8 sophomore had been shifted to guard Cassell, the Seminoles' leading scorer. As freshman Bob Sura passed the ball on the perimeter to Cassell, who paced the Seminoles with 15 points before fouling out, Hill stepped between them, stole the pass and drove for a layup that put Duke up by 67-62 with 1:20 remaining.
DUKE (16-0) -- Hurley 4-11 0-0 11, T.Hill 3-7 1-2 7, Laettner 5-10 9-12 20, G.Hill 7-12 6-6 20, Davis 1-4 4-5 7, Lang 3-7 2-3 8, Parks 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 23-51 24-30 75.
FLORIDA ST. (13-5) -- Ward 2-7 0-0 4, Cassell 7-16 0-0 15, Dobard 6-10 0-3 12, Edwards 4-9 1-1 9, Sura 3-6 0-1 6, Graham 4-10 3-4 12, Reid 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 28-61 4-9 62.
Halftime--Duke 39, Florida St. 37. 3-point goals--Duke 5-11 (Hurley 3-6, Laettner 1-1, Davis 1-2, T.Hill 0-2), Florida St. 2-14 (Graham 1-5, Cassell 1-6, Sura 0-1, Edwards 0-1, Ward 0-1). Fouled out--Cassell. Rebounds--Duke 38 (G.Hill 10), Florida St. 31 (Edwards 7). Assists--Duke 13 (Hurley 7), Florida St. 18 (Ward 6). Total fouls--Duke 13, Florida St. 25. A--13,610.