CLEMSON, S.C. - For the last two years, the Clemson-Florida State basketball game has meant little more than deciding who gets to wear the home jerseys for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament play-in game.
That changed Saturday, as the Tigers' 74-60 win gave them four victories in their last five ACC games, vaulting them into fifth place in the league and sparking talk of their first NCAA Tournament berth in six seasons.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles (12-12, 3-10) tumbled into the league basement with little chance of rising above eighth place, where they have finished the past two years.
"I just thought they had a raw hunger today that we just didn't match," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Edward Scott, scored 29 points and had six assists to lead the Tigers (15-8, 5-7), who have rebounded from a 1-6 start in the ACC.
"We never gave up," Scott said. "We've just kept plugging away."
Clemson played one of its best halves this season to take a 44-29 lead at the break. In the second half, the game bogged down, and Florida State cut a 16-point lead down to 55-47 with 7 1/2 minutes to go.
That's when Scott saw the Seminoles' Tim Pickett, saddled with four fouls, between him and the basket. Scott drove hard, the whistle blew, and Florida State's leading scorer was out of the game after scoring just seven points, 10 below his season average.
"I tried to get some contact rather than just trying to make the shot," said Scott, who kissed the ball off the backboard for the bucket anyway and made the free throw to spark a 13-3 Clemson run.
No one in the ACC is better than Scott at making the hardest lay-up look easy. Scott had at least four drives that ended with the crowd "oohing" as the ball fell through the hoop. A few more just barely spun out.
"In the summertime, I saw him make some crazier shots," said Olu Babalola, who added 15 points for the Tigers, including a backboard-shaking dunk with 4:46 left that put Clemson up 68-50.
Florida State was led by Anthony Richardson, who scored 16 points and pulled down five rebounds. Todd Galloway added 11 for Florida State, which has now lost 15 straight ACC road games.
Hamilton said his team didn't make too many mistakes, but "we don't have much room for error," he said.
It was a physical game. The referees whistled 47 fouls, and called a double-foul and double-technical in the second half as players got tangled up in the lane.
Clemson benefited the most, making 20 of 27 free throws, compared to Florida State's 14-of-24 from the line.
The Tigers next play a pair of tough road games with Maryland and Wake Forest. They will need to at least split the two games to have a shot at finishing 8-8 in the ACC.
Coach Larry Shyatt said his team sees an opportunity instead of an impossible task.
"I don't think I could imagine them in a better frame of mind," Shyatt said. "I don't think they are overconfident. I think they are focused.
North Carolina State then comes to Littlejohn Coliseum before Clemson ends the season at Georgia Tech.
Shyatt's teams have had chances to move up in the ACC late in the season before and failed. The coach said he reminded his team their rise to the middle of the league will end quickly without a few more wins.
"We're just a half-a-game from eighth place," Shyatt said.
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