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March 8, 2009

FSU triumphs on Senior Day

cameraPhotos: FSU's Win over Va. Tech & Senior Day

No. 24 Florida State defeated Virginia Tech 63-53 on Senior Day behind 37 points from their trio of seniors – Toney Douglas, Uche Echefu, and Brian Hoff.

Leonard Hamilton said following the game that he was interested to see how the two teams would battle with very different motivation. The Seminoles, who entered the game with an NCAA Tournament berth likely cemented, were honoring three seniors including ACC Player of the Year candidate Douglas. The Hokies, who entered the game 7-8 in conference and 17-12 overall were battling for their NCAA Tournament hopes.

Florida State (23-8, 10-6 ACC) would never trail as they dismissed of Virginia Tech (17-13, 7-9 ACC) and their seniors went out to a standing ovation from the 7,871 in attendance at the Donald L. Tucker Center.

"With our respect for our seniors and the affection they have for them and not wanting them to end the season on a bad note, I was concerned which motivation would be greater," Hamilton said. "It was obvious that our players were extremely motivated to go out and play as well as possible."

Douglas led all scorers with 22 points. Echefu contributed nine points. Hoff, who earned his first career start, chipped in the first six points of the game on a pair of three-pointers. Freshman center Solomon Alabi also contributed eight points in the victory.

It wasn't the Seminoles offense that won the game for them, but instead their defense. The Hokies were limited to 30.8 percent shooting from the floor and just 25 percent from behind the arc.

"I was especially pleased with our defensive effort today," Hamilton said. "It was obvious our youngsters were very focused on our defensive gameplan."

"It was a team effort," Echefu added. "We try to do the work on (Malcolm) Delaney, (Jeff) Allen, and (A.D.) Vassallo and I think we did a great job today. We made sure to limit their touches and no open shots."

While Vassallo (14 points), Delaney (13 points) and Allen (six points) combined for a considerable amount of the Hokies offense, they shot a combined 9-for-29 from the floor and showed their frustration with the lack of open looks.

Despite the Hokies poor shooting, they were able to close the gap to only three points with 7:18 remaining when J.T. Thompson made a free throw. It concluded a 6-0 run for Seth Greenberg's club which was fueled by five points from Delaney.

"We told them before the game to expect them to make their runs," Hamilton said. "We had to be focused for 40 minutes to pull it out and I thought that is what happened today."

Douglas and the Seminoles were going to have nothing of it though.

Over the next four minutes, Douglas would score 12 of the Seminoles 14 points to once again increase the gap to ten points.

"It's funny. My teammates always say in the second half, 'OK, Toney, it's your time to take over,'" Douglas said. "Every time with five or six minutes left in the second half, they say, 'It's TDT time, Toney Douglas Time.' I knew I was going to take over, but I was going to pick and choose when to do it."

One negative for the Seminoles in the game was that they did turn the ball over 17 times, including 13 times in the first half. Derwin Kitchen, who finished with six points, also had six turnovers. While Hamilton wasn't satisfied with the ball handling, he was glad to see his team limit itself to only four in the final half.

"We had a nice little discussion about that at halftime," Hamilton said. "I think we got the point."

With the victory, Florida State improves to 10-6 in the ACC – a record that has never been snubbed for a NCAA Tournament bid - and locked up the No. 4 seed in next week's ACC Tournament. The fourth seed earns a first round bye and will face the winner of Thursday's Clemson (5th seed) and Georgia Tech (12th seed) contest. The quarterfinals game involving the Seminoles will be played on Friday at 2:30 p.m. (ESPN/Raycom)

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