ATLANTA — Leonard Hamilton walked off the court with a net draped around his neck. Deividas Dulkys posed for pictures with a small flag from his native Lithuania stuck in his cap, holding a sign that said it all:
“2012 ACC Champions.”
Not bad for a football school.
Striking a blow against Tobacco Road and carving their own niche at a place best known for its gridiron success, 17th-ranked Florida State won its first Atlantic Coast Conference basketball championship Sunday by holding off storied North Carolina 85-82 in the title game.
“It means a lot to the program to be able to crack into the upper echelon of such a rich tradition,” said Hamilton, the Seminoles coach. “We want to keep building the program so we can contend on a regular basis.”
Tournament MVP Michael Snaer scored 18 points and Florida State (24-9) used a barrage of 3-pointers to hold off No. 4 North Carolina.
The Seminoles, who joined the ACC in 1991, showed their 33-point blowout of the Tar Heels during the regular season was no fluke, though this one went to the wire. North Carolina (29-5) nearly came all the way back from a 16-point deficit in the first half.
P.J. Hairston missed a tying 3 at the buzzer.
It was the first time since Maryland’s title in 2004 that a team outside the state of North Carolina won the tournament. The Seminoles sure earned this one, knocking off the ACC’s two most hallowed programs – sixth-ranked Duke in the semifinals, the Tar Heels in the final – on back-to-back days.
“It’s a great accomplishment just because their history is so rich,” Seminoles guard Luke Loucks said. “Not only to beat them, but to have an opportunity to play those teams on this stage and in this game was really important to us.”
Florida State was 11 of 22 from 3-point range, which turned out to be the difference.
Harrison Barnes led North Carolina with 23 points, while Tyler Zeller had 19 points and 12 rebounds.