For Fla. State's Cummings, devil of an upset not enough

Senior guard hopes win over Duke just a beginning

ACC notebook

January 11, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Florida State senior shooting guard Monte Cummings has watched one replay of the biggest shot of his life, but now he would rather move on and play better games that lead to bigger victories.

That was Cummings who drove for the layup in the closing seconds of Sunday's 77-76 victory against visiting, previously unbeaten and top-ranked Duke. That was Cummings who scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help Seminoles coach Steve Robinson enjoy the finest moment of his five seasons in Tallahassee.

If Florida State continues its competitive ways, could it emerge as an NCAA tournament possibility?

"The most important thing is being happy with the Duke win, but not being satisfied with it," Cummings said. "I want to beat North Carolina. I want to beat Wake. I want to beat N.C. State. I have bigger goals. I have become obsessed with winning. If you work hard enough at anything, you'll get what you need in life. We have to keep this going."

Florida State (8-6, 1-2), which followed its Duke victory with a loss at N.C. State, does not have to worry about getting solid efforts from Cummings. At 25, with a four-year hitch in the U.S. Army behind him, a phase that included being stationed near the recent conflict in Bosnia, Cummings has a little perspective on his side.

"One thing the military did was teach me to be persistent in my dreams and my goals. There's no such thing as quitting," he said.

Sandwiched around his tour of duty were one-year stints at Manatee (Fla.) Junior College and Southeastern (La.) Community College, where he led the team to the NJCAA national championship in 2000 by averaging a team-high 16.8 points a game. Cummings then transferred to Florida State, where he became one of the ACC's more underrated sixth men last year by finishing second on the team with a 10.7-point average.

This year, Cummings, 6 feet 4, 179 pounds, has started every game and is leading the Seminoles in scoring (14.5 ppg) and is third-best in the ACC with 56.5 percent shooting. He and fifth-year senior point guard Delvon Arrington give Florida State one of the more experienced backcourts in the conference.

"As a JuCo player with a military background, there was an adjustment period for Monte. I compare it to the experience of playing golf and not being sure of which club you need to use," Robinson said. "I think Monte knows which club to use now."

Romp revisited

Maryland's demolition of North Carolina still rates a double take two days later.

While rolling to an early lead of 43-18, a halftime advantage of 57-37 and an eventual 112-79 pasting of the Tar Heels, Maryland led by as many as 39 points in the second half. The Terps scored their most points this season, scored the most points of any Carolina opponent in history and handed Carolina its worst road loss ever and its worst ACC loss since a 104-69 defeat by Duke on Feb. 29, 1964.

Senior guard Juan Dixon only needed five minutes to score 14 of his game-high 29 points. Dixon matched his career high of eight steals - one fewer than Carolina - and packed it all into 26 minutes.

Led by sophomore forward Chris Wilcox, the Terps blocked eight shots, grabbed 43 rebounds to Carolina's 31 and scored 42 points in the paint, where the Tar Heels managed 24.

And one of the more significant showings came from senior center Lonny Baxter - and not just because he scored nine points to go over the 1,500 mark for his career. Baxter started after missing a game with a sprained right ankle, and after playing tentatively early, finished with seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks.

More importantly, he got through a 22-minute showing without aggravating the injury, and is on track to play at Georgia Tech on Sunday.

"It was good to see Lonny. He wasn't himself, but he didn't re-injure the ankle," said Williams, who watched Baxter go hard in practice on Tuesday before giving him the green light to start.

N.C. State on rise

While Virginia looks like the most overrated team in the league and maybe the country after losing at home to N.C. State and at Clemson, it's time to recognize N.C. State as a program on the rise. The Wolfpack (12-3, 2-1), led by senior guard Anthony Grundy and freshmen forwards Julius Hodge and Josh Powell, barely missed making the Top 25 poll this week.

North Carolina State is chalking up some impressive victories. The Wolfpack won at Syracuse when the Orangemen were ranked No. 9 and unbeaten, and knocked off then No. 4 and unbeaten Virginia in Charlottesville, before coming home to whip Florida State by 15 after the Seminoles had upset Duke. The Wolfpack also battled Maryland gamely on Dec. 30 before losing, 72-65.

This just might be the team that gets sixth-year coach Herb Sendek to his first NCAA tournament.

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