Feb. 1, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - First came a humbling 30-point loss at Duke. Then came a snowstorm that left Florida State's players and coaches stuck in their hotel to stew over everything that went wrong the night before.

And yet, the 15th-ranked Seminoles managed to turn a miserable trip into a memorable one Monday night.

Jacinta Monroe had 16 points and 17 rebounds, and Florida State held on to beat No. 9 North Carolina 83-73 after nearly blowing a 19-point lead. The victory put the Seminoles alone in second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Courtney Ward added 13 points for the Seminoles (19-4, 5-2 ACC), who had their big second-half lead whittled all the way down to a point three times in the final 5 1/2 minutes. But Florida State started an eight-point spurt with about 3 minutes left to finally pull away from the Tar Heels (16-4, 4-2), sealing their first win in Chapel Hill since the 2000-01 season.

"We talked about it before the game - the team that was more mentally tough was the team that was going to win the basketball game," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "They put their mind to it. It was good for them to be rewarded."

They certainly earned it after the past few days.

Florida State fell behind 20-2 to start Friday night's game at Cameron Indoor Stadium before losing 73-43 to the league-leading Blue Devils. The numbers were ugly all around for the Seminoles; they committed a season-high 27 turnovers, shot a season-low 30 percent and were outrebounded 51-30.

As if that wasn't enough, the storm that dumped about 6 inches of snow in the area left a slushy mess on area roads and prevented the team bus from taking the Seminoles to Carmichael Arena for Saturday's practice. Instead, Semrau said, the squad reviewed game film, then broke into smaller groups to talk about the game.

Roads improved Sunday and allowed the Seminoles to get to practice. From there, they could only wait for the chance to prove they weren't the team that got blown out at Cameron.

"We were extremely anxious, especially after a loss like that where it's not our team," Monroe said. "That's not how we play. We just had to move forward immediately after that game. We couldn't sulk after that loss."

Monroe was huge for the Seminoles all night, finishing with two blocked shots in 34 minutes. She hit a pair of free throws with Florida State clinging to a 66-65 lead with 3:04 left to start the decisive run. Ward followed by assisting on Cierra Bravard's layup, then scoring her own driving basket on the next possession with about 2 minutes remaining.

Angel Gray followed with a long jumper to make it 74-65 with 1:28 left. North Carolina got no closer than six in the final seconds.

"When they jumped on us early in the Duke game, we didn't fight back," said Bravard, who had 11 points and seven boards. "Today, if they threw something at us, we figured out another way to do what we needed to do."

Florida State also helped itself by taking a 47-32 rebounding advantage, which helped the Seminoles score 16 second-chance points. That was particularly irksome for rebounding-obsessed North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell, who promised her team would get an early start on their rebounding work at practice Tuesday.

"The rebounding, I can't live with that, so the earliest we can practice is 6 o'clock in the morning and if y'all are up, you're welcome to come," Hatchell said. "We'll be here rebounding at 6 o'clock.

"We'll see what (the outcome) means to our players. I'm not sure how much it means to them. So we're going to see how much it means to them and how bad this team wants to go to the NCAA tournament - and what they're going to do with it."

Hatchell was also irritated by the Tar Heels' slow start. The Seminoles frustrated the Tar Heels with zone defense and turned the game into a grind-it-out halfcourt pace, exactly the opposite of how North Carolina likes to play.

Florida State led 36-24 at the break, then took its biggest lead when Monroe drove by Chay Shegog to make it 47-28 with 17:09 left. The Tar Heels responded with a 17-2 run behind Shegog, who scored 10 points in the 6 1/2-minute spurt before closing it with two free throws to cut the deficit to 56-54 with 8:41 left.

Italee Lucas scored 20 points to lead the Tar Heels.