Toney Douglas led Florida State to its most regular-season victories in 39 seasons. The senior guard, though, understands that the Seminoles’ 23-8 record and fourth-place finish in the ACC means nothing once the conference tournament begins.
Awarded its first bye in the ACC conference tournament, No. 22 Florida State begins postseason play Friday afternoon at the Georgia Dome when it takes on 12th-seeded Georgia Tech in the quarterfinals.
“We also know it’s a new start,” Douglas told the school’s official Web site. “Everybody’s 0-0.”
Douglas scored 22 points in the regular-season finale, a 63-53 victory over Virginia Tech on March 8, as Florida State recorded its first 23-win regular season since 1969-70. Douglas, the conference’s defensive player of the year, was a first-team All-ACC pick and the runner-up to North Carolina’s Ty Lawson for conference player of the year.
The Jonesboro, Georgia, native accounted for 30.3 percent of the Seminoles’ scoring during the regular season.
“I feel like I can score whenever I want,” Douglas said following the March 8 victory. “I know what I’m going to end up doing. I had to take over.”
While his teammates have been acclimating themselves to the cavernous backdrop of the Georgia Dome, Douglas feels right at home in the downtown Atlanta arena.
“It’s like I’m back in high school, right down the street from my house,” he said. “I’m used to the facilities and the area, so it’s going to be fun.”
Douglas, among the ACC’s top scorers at 20.8 points per game, is the only Seminole averaging in double figures. He needs 26 points Friday to pass George McLeod (1,574) for sixth place on the program’s all-time scoring list - despite playing just three seasons in Tallahassee after transferring from Auburn.
“Toney basically had to shoulder the responsibility of being a leader, mentally and emotionally, on and off the court,” said Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton, the ACC coach of the year. “He did all the things you like to see a leader do.”
Douglas has performed best when it counts. He averaged 15.2 points in the second half of ACC games, including 10 of his 21 in the last 5:09 as the host Seminoles defeated Georgia Tech 62-58 on Feb. 5 in the teams’ only meeting this season.
In order for Florida State to advance to the tournament semifinals for the first time since 1992, it will have to defeat a Yellow Jackets team that will essentially be playing a home game after upsetting No. 17 Clemson 86-81 in Thursday’s opening round.
Senior guard Lewis Clinch hit 11 of 20 shots, including five 3-pointers in 12 attempts, and scored a career-high 32 as Georgia Tech (12-18) made a season-best 55.7 percent from the field.
The Yellow Jackets, though, will likely face a stiffer test against Florida State, the ACC’s top defensive scoring team at 64.5 points per game. The Seminoles are also among the nation’s best, holding teams to 38.6 percent shooting.
Gani Lawal posted his 15th double-double of the season Thursday with 20 points and 14 rebounds. He had 10 points and 11 boards in Georgia Tech’s first game versus Florida State this season.
“We’re clicking,” backup center Alade Aminu said. “We’re ready for them.”
The winner faces No. 1 North Carolina or Virginia Tech in Saturday afternoon’s first semifinal.