20-Year Nole Anniversary: Cummings’ Hoop Lifts FSU Past No. 1 Duke, 77-76
AP Photo

20-Year Nole Anniversary: Cummings’ Hoop Lifts FSU Past No. 1 Duke, 77-76

Florida State has become quite the force in men’s basketball in recent years under Leonard Hamilton.

There was a time however, when the Seminoles were an ACC doormat. That was the case for the latter parts of the Steve Robinson era, but in his final season, FSU did something it had never before — beat the nation’s No. 1 team.

That victory came on this day 20 years. Guard Monte Cummings drove baseline for the winning basket as the Seminoles stunned top-ranked Duke, 77-76.

Jan. 7, 2002 front page of the Tallahassee Democrat

Setting the Stage

Duke was the reigning national champion and on a 22-game winning streak as it arrived at the Leon County Civic Center on Jan. 6, 2002. The Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 in the country and featured a star-studded lineup that included Jay (then known as Jason) Williams, Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Chris Duhon.

FSU, on the other hand, was just 7-5 coming in and 0-1 in ACC play. The Seminoles had lost to the likes of Northwestern, Western Carolina and American University coming in. The team that showed up to play Duke however, did not resemble the same squad.

“Their team was full of pros,” recalled Mike Mathews, a center for the Seminoles. “I remember going into that game with the mindset of ‘we have nothing to lose’ and we went out and played as hard as we could and gave ourselves a chance to win the game.”

Cummings Plays Hero

For FSU, the confidence that it could play with Duke began to build during the early and middle parts of the first half. Delvon Arrington’s 3-pointer late in the half gave the Seminoles a 32-21 lead.

Duke would cut the lead to four by halftime and to two by early in the second half, but FSU answered with a 12-2 run. During the run, Cummings and freshman Anthony Richardson combined for 11 of those points.

That lead would balloon to as many as 13 points, but Duke would not go quietly. The Blue Devils used a late 16-3 run to draw even as Williams connected on his third trey during the run to tie the game at 61 with less than six minutes to go. Duke tied the game on three other occasions before finally going ahead on a pair of free throws by Boozer with 1:22 remaining.

After Arrington split a pair of free throws, Dunleavy’s third 3-pointer of the night looked as though it might be the dagger as the Blue Devils led 76-72. Antwuan Dixon answered with a trey for the Seminoles to cut the lead back to one.

Down one with 28 seconds left, FSU was forced to foul. Williams, known for his sharpshooting ability, went to the line. Uncharacteristically, he missed both free throws and FSU was alive and well.

On the final possession for FSU, Cummings took the pass. Williams, his defender slipped, and Cummings was able to get to the basket before laying it in with 7.4 seconds remaining.

“The game came down to free throws and stops,” Mathews said. “We made our free throws and we got key stops. They missed their free throws.”

Following a timeout, Williams drove the length of the court for Duke. Well-defended, Williams tried to force a shot, but the ball was deflected into the hands of Dunleavy. With a relatively good look, Dunleavy shot it off glass but it was no good as time expired.

“I was the lone defender defending the basket with Carlos Boozer on the block to worry about,” Mathews said. “I didn’t leave my feet as Williams drove to the basket. Stayed on my feet, raised my hands and walled up and forced Jason Williams to attempt a tough shot. I blocked his shot.”

Top Performers

Despite the critical misses down the stretch, Williams led all scorers with 26 points and shot 8-for-12 from deep. Dunleavy added 14 points in the loss while Boozer tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Cummings’ 16 points paced the Seminoles. Arrington added 13 points and a game-high 10 assists. Michael Joiner and Antwuan Dixon finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Nigel Dixon led FSU with 12 rebounds.

As a team, FSU held a 10-rebound advantage and shot 45% from the field. Duke shot 40% from the floor, but made 10 more 3-pointers than FSU.

Sports page from Orlando Sentinel, Jan. 7, 2002

In Hindsight

The loss would hardly faze the Blue Devils. Duke went on to win the ACC and earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before being upset by eventual national runner-up Indiana in the Sweet 16. The Blue Devils finished with a 31-4 record.

For FSU, the victory was not the beginning of a turnaround. The Seminoles split their next four games before dropping six straight and nine of their next 10. FSU finished the season with a record of 12-17 and parted ways with Robinson following the season.

FSU would again beat a top-ranked Duke team in March 2006 and has always spelled trouble for highly-ranked Blue Devils’ squads. Its first-ever win over a No. 1 team came on this day two decades ago.

“As Dunleavey’s missed tip attempt rimmed out, our fans stormed the court,” Mathews said. “It was mayhem in the Civic Center that night as we knocked off No. 1 Duke. That’s a night I’ll never forget.”

SPECIAL THANKS: Christopher Holder, Garnet and Great FSU Football Archivist, contributed to this article.

References

NoleFan.org

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.

Mike Ferguson

Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw and has more than 10 years of experience in online and print journalism. Mike graduated from Florida State University in 2009 and has had his work featured at numerous prominent publications such as Fox Sports, the Associated Press, Athlon Sports, Yahoo Sports and Sports Illustrated among others. Prior to joining Double Fries No Slaw, Mike was the founder and editor of The Daily Nole. He also serves as the managing editor for Fifth Quarter and is a contributor for Athlon Sports, Fish Stripes and Orlando Pinstriped Post. Mike and his wife Jennifer reside in Haines City, Fla. and have two daughters.