- The Washington Times - Friday, March 9, 2007

TAMPA, Fla. — When Florida State’s Al Thornton jettisons his headband, it usually means trouble for an opponent.

The Seminoles’ dynamic forward tossed aside his headband in the middle of the first half and finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in a 67-66 victory over eighth-seeded Clemson at the ACC tournament.

Thornton also made the clinching free throw with 1.5 seconds remaining for Florida State (20-11), which secured a much-needed victory for its NCAA tournament hopes.

The senior, though, was at his best just after discarding his accessory. Thornton scored 14 points in the final 8:20 of the first half, helping the Seminoles turn a seven-point deficit into a 38-36 lead at the break.

“Usually when I take my headband off, there’s a lot of physical play going on,” Thornton said. “I thought I got fouled. I kind of get aggravated, and whenever I get aggravated, the headband comes off.”

The Seminoles can only hope he’s as aggravated — and productive — today against top-seeded North Carolina. Florida State owns victories against Florida, Maryland, Virginia and Duke (the latter on the road), but the memory of a postseason snub last season still lingers.

“After going through the experiences we enjoyed last year, I’ve learned now just to work on the things we can control,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We have to start preparing to win as many games as we can. I thought we earned the right to go last year, but unfortunately my vote didn’t count.”

For its part, Clemson (21-10) lost 10 of its final 14 games and could also find itself with unwelcome news when the 65-team NCAA field in unveiled Sunday.

“You fear that and you want to win as many games as you can,” Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said. “If we would have won today and lost tomorrow, that would have been a fear but in my opinion we’ve done enough to get in.”

Miami not-so-nice

Someone managed to do the nearly impossible after Miami’s 67-62 of Maryland: Irritate the usually affable Frank Haith.

The Hurricanes coach was asked first about how unusual it was for both Florida schools to advance in the tournament, and then about how momentous it was for his team to secure this victory.

Funny thing is, Miami (12-19) scrapped its way to the NIT despite a limited frontcourt the last two years and actually remained competitive despite injuries and suspensions throughout this season.

“This team has won at North Carolina, this team won at Maryland,” Haith said. “This team has beaten all the teams in this league except Duke and [Boston College] and I’m proud of the fact we joined this league and we’ve done a good job of competing in this league. This year we’ve struggled, but we’ve had some really good wins.”

Uncharted territory?

Virginia Tech has never won an ACC tournament game and Virginia hasn’t advanced to the semifinals since 1995, giving tonight’s quarterfinals an added piece of importance.

The third-seeded Hokies have lost their opener in their first two years as a member of the ACC and will meet either Georgia Tech or Wake Forest. The second-seeded Cavaliers, who shared the regular season title with North Carolina, have won opening round games the last three seasons. However, they’ve been eliminated in or before the quarterfinals 11 straight years.

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