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Dwayne Bacon’s game winner elevates national profile

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Going into Tuesday night’s game with Florida in Gainesville, FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton stressed that the game was more than a rivalry game. He thought the game’s importance could be measured later in the season.

“Even though it’s a rivalry game, there are more ramifications that are greater than the rivalry,” he said on Monday.

He was talking about playing an ACC-type of team on the road, where a victory would produce invaluable experience and confidence heading into conference play. With FSU’s 73-71 victory at the O’Connell Center, the Seminoles are 11-2 and can feel good about what lies ahead.

The game is likely to have “more ramifications” for Florida State freshman star Dwayne Bacon. It was his 12-foot jumper with 5 seconds remaining that gave the Seminoles the victory in the nationally-televised contest.

Bacon is many things, but one thing he is not is overhyped. A signature characteristic of a program-changing player is not just how many shots he can make, but when he makes them.

“He seems to be growing up and making leaps and bounds in his confidence and his ability to make plays,” said Hamilton after the game. “Every shot he made tonight was very important.”

Another freshman tried to steal Bacon’s thunder. Gator freshman KeVaughn Allen did everything he could to keep his team in the game with a career-high 32 points.

Had one or two more shots dropped, the Gators would have been the ones celebrating. After being so hot for the first 30 minutes, Allen missed his last six shots down the stretch.

Florida State led for most of the game, but the Gators made several runs. Each time FSU responded. Bacon had key baskets in the second half, as did Devon Bookert. Despite continuous defensive pressure, the Seminoles did not wilt.

Heading into the game, Bacon was the reigning ACC Rookie of the Week, an award he has won three times. After Tuesday night’s performance, he may be looking at number four.

The Lakeland, Fla. native was also selected National Freshman of the Week by CBS Sports.

Bacon finished with a team-high 24 points and was 5 for 8 behind the three-point arc. While he was the star of the game for Florida State, he had more help from his teammates than Allen did from his fellow Gators.

Watching him play, it is easy to forget that he and teammate Malik Beasley are freshmen. Ability, mixed with poise, is the sports chemistry that molds a gifted athlete into a superior player.

Bacon will play in the NBA in the not-too-distant future. Leonard Hamilton and FSU fans hope he will be around for more than one season.

If not, they hope the “ramifications” from Tuesday’s game lead to something good when March rolls around.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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