Clemson's NCAA Chances Take Huge Hit With Loss To Seminoles

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TAMPA - Clemson appeared to have its NCAA Tournament destiny in its own hands in Thursday's opener of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Then, in just a matter of seconds, a turnover and a controversial foul call conspired to, more than likely, end the Tigers' dreams of going dancing.

Florida State's Al Thornton hit 1-of-2 free throws with 1.5 seconds left to give the Seminoles a 67-66 victory over Clemson Thursday at Tampa's St. Pete Times Forum.

Thornton's game-winner came after the Tigers turned over the ball with 8.3 seconds remaining, and then only after K.C. Rivers was charged with a foul on what television replays appeared to show was nothing more than solid defense.

Vernon Hamilton's desperation heave from near midcourt missed badly at the buzzer, and FSU (20-11) beat Clemson (21-10) for the first time in three tries this season.

The question now becomes, again, how many teams from the ACC will make the NCAA Tournament field. And if it comes down to a choice between Clemson and FSU, who gets the nod?

The Tigers had a chance to improve their resume' in the game's waning seconds, before kicking away the opportunity.

Trevor Booker blocked Ryan Reid's shot with 18 seconds remaining in the game and the score tied at 66-66. Clemson immediately ran in to the front court intent on taking the final shot of the game.

But in the front court Hamilton, near his own bench, made a pass toward the top to Cliff Hammonds. But Hammonds couldn't control the pass, it bouncing off his knee and into the backcourt for a violation with 8.3 seconds to play.

After a timeout, the Seminoles called on Thornton.

The senior drove from the left side toward the foul line and appeared to lose his balance as he put up an awkward shot. The shot was blocked by Booker, but K.C. Rivers was called for a pushing foul on Thornton before the shot was attempted with just 1.5 seconds remaining.

Television replays showed that Rivers kept his nearest arm in close to his own body and it was Thornton who appeared to initiate the contact. But the call went against Clemson, and after Thornton missed the first shot he hit the second to give the Seminoles the one point lead and, ultimately, the victory.

Thornton finished with a game-high 25 points for FSU, while Isaiah Swann added 12.

Booker topped Clemson with 18, followed by Hammonds with 16 and Hamilton with 13.

The game featured 22 lead changes.

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