ATLANTA – Bernard James heard the story about North Carolina coach Roy Williams writing the number "33" on a board for his entire team to see after Florida State's 90-57 win Jan. 14 against UNC.
The number stayed on the board for the rest of the season, taunting UNC's players and reminding them how James and FSU handed them their worst loss in nine years.
Now, the number is old news.
After FSU defeated top seed North Carolina 85-82 in Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship game, the Seminoles have officially been validated.
"They've been on a warpath to erase that 33 off the board, so we knew they'd come out with everything they had," said James, who had nine points and five blocks in the title game.
"We had to top that from the start, and put them on their heels, which is what we did (Jan. 14) to them. They weren't ready for how hard we were playing and how physical we were and that we didn't back down from them."
FSU (24-9), which was led by tournament Most Valuable Player Michael Snaer's 18 points (4 of 5 from 3-point range), staved off a series of UNC rallies in the second half to claim its first-ever ACC men's basketball tournament title. UNC's P.J. Hairston, who was 3 of 6 from 3-point range in the second half, missed a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer that would've tied the game.
FSU shot 58.9 percent from the floor, including 50 percent (11 of 22) from 3-point range. UNC was held to 39.4 percent shooting, including 25 percent (5 of 20) on 3-pointers, by No. 3 seed FSU's stifling defense.
UNC (29-5) was without starting forward John Henson, who sat on the bench in uniform the entire game and didn't play due to a left wrist injury. UNC was paced by Harrison Barnes, who had 23 points on 9 of 18 shooting.
"(Sunday's) game was a testament to our players, because there were several times when we made runs and Carolina made runs, we made runs and Carolina made runs," said Hamilton, who became the first African-American coach to win the ACC tournament championship. "Each time Carolina made a run, we were able to regroup and show a lot of character and maturity."
Prior to the championship game, no team had shot better than 48.4 percent against UNC this season. Of course, that's what FSU shot in the 33-point win back in January.
Despite its shooting woes, UNC had a chance to get its first conference tournament title since 2008. UNC, which trailed by as many as 16 in the first half and 14 in the second half, capped a late 9-2 run with a 3-pointer by Kendall Marshall with 30.1 seconds left to trim FSU's advantage to 83-82.
After a UNC timeout, FSU's Okaro White was fouled by Marshall, but White missed the front end of a one-and-one and the rebound was grabbed by Tyler Zeller, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. Marshall bypassed working the ball into the low post and hoisted another 3-point attempt with six seconds left, but he was off the mark.
"I got a good look, but rushed it a little bit," said Marshall, who had 15 points and nine assists.
FSU's Deividas Dulkys, who had 16 points and made 4 of 9 shots from 3-point range, grabbed the rebound with 3.9 seconds left, got fouled and made two free throws. Hairston, who had 13 points, got his last shot up after UNC advanced the ball to midcourt and called timeout with 3.3 seconds left.
"We kept trying to pry the door open, and they kept closing the door," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They did what somebody had to do to stop somebody from coming back and stealing a win from them."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times