NCAA weekend features FSU knocking off Duke, UNC

By Patrick Strohecker

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Florida State took down two Top 5 teams in the nation this weekend en route to winning the Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

Sunday’s ACC title game between the No. 13 Seminoles (24-9, 12-4 ACC)  and No. 4 North Carolina had the same feel as the game against Duke which got FSU to the final game,, as the Seminoles came out hot against the Tar Heels (29-5, 14-2 ACC).

Florida State opened up a 16-point lead late in the first half, but managed to hold a nine-point advantage going into halftime.

The Seminoles extend their second-half lead to 13 points, but a late-game push set up a frantic finish for FSU. With under a minute to go, Florida State led by one point, but after a missed shot by senior Kendall Marshall, FSU’s Deividas Dulkys hit two freethrows to put the game away and give Florida State an ACC title, 85-82.

The Seminoles went into its ACC semifinal matchup against No. 6 Duke (27-6, 13-3 ACC) on Saturday hoping to steal a win and move into the conference championship game. They did just that, beating the Blue Devils, 62-59.

Florida State controlled the entire first half and even opened up a six-point lead late in the first half, but much like Duke has done several times this season, it closed the gap to only two points, heading into the break trailing, 33-31.

The Seminoles came out firing in the second half, opening up a huge 10-point lead, before the Blue Devils came roaring back and eventually took a one-point lead late in the game.

But the Seminoles regained the lead, and as time expired, Duke guard Seth Curry heaved a half-court shot that rimmed out and gave Florida State the three-point victory and a spot in the ACC championship game.

No. 1 UK falls to Vanderbilt

After running the table in the Southeastern Conference all year, top-ranked Kentucky suffered its first in-conference loss in the SEC title game to Vanderbilt, 71-64.

Kentucky (32-2, 16-0 SEC) jumped out to an early 7-1 lead, but the Commodores (24-10, 10-6 SEC) stormed back and took an eight-point lead midway through the first half. But when the halftime buzzer rang, the two teams were deadlocked at 37-37.

The second half started off with both teams going back and forth in a seesaw battle, which saw neither team open up more than a two-point lead at any point.

Midway through the half, Kentucky seemed to finally kick it into gear and pull away from Vanderbilt, when it opened up a six-point lead with just under 10 minutes to play. But Vanderbilt roared back and ended the game on a 16-2 run in the final five minutes to stun the No. 1 Wildcats and capture the SEC crown and an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Despite the loss, Kentucky still received the No. 1 overall seed heading into the NCAA tournament.

MSU Outlasts OSU

In a battle of Top 10 teams, No. 8 Michigan State defeated No. 7 Ohio State, 68-64, in Sunday’s Big Ten title game.

The game was highly contested from start to finish, as the biggest lead in the game was a seven-point advantage. The win helped cap off a remarkable season in which the Spartans (27-7, 13-5 Big 10) gained a share of the regular season Big Ten crown and the Big Ten conference tournament title as well.

Led by Brandon Wood’s season-high 21 points, the Spartans fought off Ohio State’s (27-7, 13-5 Big 10) Jared Sullinger’s 18 points, nine rebound effort.

The game was close throughout, with Michigan State’s 7-2 lead being the largest of the half. The game entered the halftime break with the Spartans clinging onto a 34-32 lead.

Ohio State responded well to the halftime deficit and crawled back to take a 52-45 lead with just over 14 minutes left to play in the game. But Michigan State stormed back and took the lead with about 13 minutes remaining and never relinquished the lead, holding onto the lead until the final buzzer.

The win was Michigan State’s first conference tournament title since 2000 and helped it earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The loss for the Buckeyes slid them down to a No. 2 seed for the tournament.

Patrick Strohecker can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter at MDC_Strohecker.