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January 13, 2007ATLANTA ? Leonard Hamilton turned away from the action on the court, looked up at the ceiling and rolled his eyes. And then he shook his head and sat down.
Nothing Hamilton or the Florida State basketball team tried stopped Georgia Tech from making big shot after big shot on Saturday night.
The Yellow Jackets stormed to an 88-80 victory over the Seminoles, thanks in large part to a series of huge plays that came with the shot clock winding down. Hamilton's frustration finally turned to exasperation on the biggest shot-clock moment of the night ? a 3-pointer by Tech's Javaris Crittenton with 6:52 remaining that all but sealed FSU's fate. The shot came after the Seminoles chipped away at a double-digit deficit and closed the gap to 63-57, and Crittenton drained it with two defenders in his face. The ball went through the net as the shot clock expired.
"It's nice to have guys who can make plays when their coach can't think of anything," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "There were three plays in that game ? Thaddeus [Young's] drive on the baseline, the jump shot that Javaris made and the shot fake that Zack Peacock made in the corner ? that were just guys making plays. That's what the game came down to. It's nice to have guys who can step up and make a play at a crucial time."
Those big plays sent FSU back to Tallahassee with an 0-3 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference (12-5 overall). With four of the next five games at home, it's obvious that the Seminoles must somehow find a way to get out of this hole they dug if they want to entertain postseason thoughts.
"We've been in this position at times," FSU guard Jason Rich said.
"When your back is against the wall, you've got no choice but to come out swinging. We're going to keep plugging and keep giving the type of effort we need. The biggest thing we're going to do is keep learning from the mistakes we're missing."
The Seminoles will have plenty of mistakes to review from Saturday's game -- and from both ends of the court.
FSU simply couldn't find a way to keep Georgia Tech (13-4, 2-2) from scoring. The Yellow Jackets shot 54.2 percent (26 of 48) from the field, including 47.6 percent (10 of 21) from 3-point range.
Tech's Crittenton (23 points), Mario West (18 points), Anthony Morrow (17 points) and Young (14 points) each took turns torching FSU's defense. The big blows, though, came when the shot clock was winding down and Tech somehow managed to either make big shots or draw fouls.
Including a Morrow 3-pointer that closed out the first half, the Seminoles gave up points at least seven times when the shot clock was under four seconds.
"There were two shots that I think we'll all agree were kind of heave-ho type of shots that went in," Hamilton said. "There was another one that missed badly and fell right into one of their hands under the basket that could have easily gone anywhere and it went right to him. The other one, I thought we had a very good defensive stand and the ball bounced all the way back out to the three-point line and there was only one player in that area and it happened to be a Georgia Tech player."
"But that happens when you're not down and dirty for 40 minutes. You have to make things happen for yourself and you can't hope that the ball is going to bounce your way. That's why you have to play consistently well for 40 minutes so that when those things happen they are negated because you are creating opportunities for yourself."
But Hamilton said he was more concerned with his defense giving up a series of open shots when the shot clock was not an issue.
"The thing that disappointed me the most was that we had a period in the first half when defensively we were not good," Hamilton said.
"They had a stretch where Crittenton hit two threes and Thaddeus Young had those two threes he hit in the first half ? I thought that we coached against that all week. We didn't want to give him the left-hand drives. We didn't sit on his left hand and he shot a very comfortable three. And then with the three that Peacock hit from the top of the key, those were five threes that really could have been avoided with us sticking with our defense that we talked about all week long. Those things, you can look back and see that they never should have happened. Those are 15 points that could have been avoided."
"During the flow of the game, you can't come off those guys. They weren't coming off of screens; they were catch-and-shoot type of threes. Normally, you have to run people at them and I thought that we were very soft on all five of those shots."
It wasn't just on the defensive end where FSU struggled.
A flurry of turnovers killed any chance the Seminoles had at making a comeback. During one second-half stretch, FSU turned the ball over on seven consecutive possessions. The Seminoles had 18 turnovers in the game, nine in each half.
"That will do most any team in when you have a stretch like that," Hamilton said. "I don't know if [Tech] had much to do with any of those turnovers, with the exception of one."
"Those kinds of turnovers, you don't even coach against. Some of the turnovers made tonight were like we invented them. We came up with ways for how we could turn the ball over. That was disappointing."
Sophomore guard Toney Douglas led the Seminoles with 22 points. Senior forward Al Thornton added 20 and sophomore forward Uche Echefu had 13.