Beating highly-ranked Duke teams has become tradition for Florida State men’s basketball over the past few decades.
One of the more memorable FSU wins in the series came on this day 30 years ago and starred an unlikely hero. With just three seconds left in overtime, Byron Wells knocked down a corner 3-pointer to give FSU a thrilling 89-88 victory over the 2-time reigning national champions.
“We were a very good team and it was a very good win for us,” former FSU guard Charlie Ward told The Daily Nole prior to the 25-year anniversary of the contest. “We had beat North Carolina the year before. We were trying to beat Duke and really break through.”
In just its second season in the ACC, FSU was unranked at 12-5 but on a 4-game winning streak as it arrived at the Leon County Civic Center on Jan. 24, 1993. Duke, on the other hand, was ranked No. 6 in the country. Midway through the second half, it appeared as though the Blue Devils might cruise to victory.
Duke led 61-50 with less than 12 minutes to play, but the Seminoles used a 20-8 run to take the lead. The final five and a half minutes of regulation featured seven lead changes and four ties.
The back-and-forth trend continued in overtime, but with time ticking away, it was a jumper from Duke’s Marty Clark that was the difference. Bobby Hurley had a big day for Duke with 22 points, but a turnover from Hurley and a steal by Ward would ultimately set up the deciding possession. Wells was playing in place of Doug Edwards who had fouled out.
“We probably had guys who you’d rather have…take the clutch shot,” Ward said. “When you’re in a game like that, you never really know who is going to come through. But Byron put in the work in practice and we were confident when he shot the ball.”
With less than four seconds left, Wells was left open in the corner and knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer. Ward stole in the ensuing inbounds pass to seal the win.
Wells would finish with just nine made 3-pointers for his FSU career. Two came that day as he finished a perfect 4-for-4 from the field with 10 points.
“For Byron, that was his M.O.; he was a shooter,” Ward said. “I don’t remember much about the game. I just remember the last play where we were able to seal the deal.”
Edwards led the Seminoles with 21 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out. Bob Sura and Rodney Dobard each added 16 points in the win. Sam Cassell finished with 15 points and six assists. Ward tallied 11 points and a game-high five steals.
For Duke, Grant Hill would lead the way with 25 points. Hurley added five assists to go with his 22 points. Cherokee Parks finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Following the victory, FSU would return to the polls and wouldn’t fall out again. The Seminoles went on to finish with a record of 25-10 and reached the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history. Their closest home victory that season came against the 2-time reigning national champions, courtesy of a Wells 3-pointer on this day three decades ago.
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.