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March 21, 2011

FSU turns the tables on way to Sweet 16

CHICAGO - That one team shot the ball especially well, particularly from 3-point range, while the other struggled to develop any kind of offense wasn't especially surprising.

That the former team turned out to be Florida State and the latter Notre Dame? That stunned nearly all of the 18,146 in attendance at the United Center, as well as the television audience focused solely on the final game of the NCAA Tournament's opening weekend.

"It's called defense," guard Deividas Dulkys said. "We knew what we had to stop. We play very well against shooting teams."

They certainly played well against the Fighting Irish. And as a result, the Seminoles secured their place in this week's Southwest region semifinal, and will play Virginia Commonwealth Friday at 9:57 p.m. in San Antonio.

Ben Hansbrough, the Big East Player of the Year, found himself relentlessly pursued and struggled to find any kind of open look at the basket. Hansbrough, who finished 5-of-13 from the field (4-of-10 from 3-point range) - many of which came after the Seminoles opened up a double-digit lead - was at times visibly frustrated on the court and fouled out late in the second half.

Other Notre Dame players didn't fare much better against FSU's defense, which has become one of the talking points of this year's tournament.

Forward Tim Abromaitis led the Fighting Irish with 21 points, but aside from Hansbrough, no other Notre Dame player scored more than seven. Notre Dame shot only 30.6 percent (19-for-62, its second-worst performance of the year) and made just seven of its 30 3-point attempts.

"It seemed like the first 30 minutes of the game we couldn't make anything," Abromaitis said. "We normally make those shots and, obviously, Florida State's defense had a lot to do with it."

Guard Michael Snaer said that as the game wore on, FSU's defense started to affect the Fighting Irish mentally.

"If you think that we're there every time, then you have in your mind that when you come off the screen, you're not going to be ready to shoot," he said. "Because you're think 'Oh, someone's going to be here. It's not going to be open. They've been here all day, why would they fall down just one little play?'"

As a result, on the rare occasion that a Notre Dame player found an open look, the shot more often than not missed its target.

"I want them to think every time they catch it that I have a hand right here," Snaer said. "So don't even think about shooting."

Meanwhile, Florida State stunned the Irish with a number of 3-point shots - seven in the first half - that built up and early lead and, eventually, dealt Notre Dame a deficit that it couldn't overcome.

Junior Deividas Dulkys knocked down two 3-point attempts in the first half. Snaer added three more for the game. Guard Luke Loucks had a first half 3-pointer bounce twice on the rim before falling in. It was just that kind of night.

Dulkys, who's tenacious defense has made up for a recent shooting slump, was no less pleased to get on the score sheet against Notre Dame. He celebrated his 23rd birthday today, and said after the game that it was the "best birthday gift ever."

Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton attributed the offensive performance to relaxed attitude that eventually led to higher confidence for the Seminoles.

"When (shots) start falling and keep (you) moving the ball and keep doing it, you feel better about yourselves," he said. "That's one of the reasons we shot the ball so well tonight."

Talk about it on the Tribal Council or the Hoops Message Board.



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