tampabay.com

Thornton lifts FSU to first league win

He scores 27 in the second half to stun No. 23 Hokies .

By D.C. REEVES
Published January 18, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - If you told FSU coach Leonard Hamilton that he would get zero first-half points and one shot from All-ACC forward Al Thornton on Wednesday night, another type of zero would probably come to mind: an 0-4 start to conference play.

If you told Hamilton that Thornton would come back with an arena-record 27 second-half points and grab 13 rebounds, an 82-73 victory over No. 23 Virginia Tech at the Donald L. Tucker Center would seem much more fitting.

But it wasn't just the points that Thornton provided in the closing stretch; it was more about timing.

After Tech shaved FSU's 16-point lead to seven with 13:48 to play, Thornton responded with a pair of dunks that kept FSU (13-5, 1-3) afloat. Then when the Hokies cut the deficit to one, 52-51, four minutes later, Thornton scored six straight.

And when FSU was ready to put the Hokies away, it turned to Thornton, who made a turnaround jumper from about 40 feet as the shot clock expired.

"That was about as good as it gets," said Hamilton, whose club halted a three-game losing skid. "Obviously (Thornton) was imposing his will on the team and on the game. He went and got some rebounds in places that most people have trouble getting to."

While the Hokies (13-5, 3-1) focused their defensive scheme on Thornton in the first half, point guard Toney Douglas tallied 14 points as FSU held a 39-23 halftime edge.

"When you looked in there (in the first half), you probably saw that it wasn't the wisest thing to throw the ball inside," said Hamilton, whose team shot 58 percent (11-for-19) in the opening half. "I think (Thornton's) presence on the floor in the first half opened up a lot of things for his teammates."

Once Thornton got involved, he and Douglas combined to score 31 straight for the Seminoles over a 13-minute span.

"(Thornton) was great. He took the game over," said Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg, who was the coach at USF for seven seasons (1996-2003). "He made the shot from the baseline, he made the shot from halfcourt, I mean, there were some freakish plays in this game. He's really a special player. He's one of the toughest matchups in the conference."