TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- After the ball swished through -- yet again -- midway through the second half Saturday afternoon, Florida State guard Deividas Dulkys shrugged his shoulders and grinned as he ran down the court.
The senior’s reaction wasn’t about making yet another 3-pointer. (In a game in which he connected on a career-high eight shots from behind the arc as part of a career-high 32 points, he’d gotten pretty used to that.)
It was about what it all meant.
“I just thought, at that moment, 'We got 'em,'" Dulkys said, grinning again at the memory. “It wasn’t about any individual -- it was about beating North Carolina.”
Beat the third-ranked Tar Heels? FSU mauled them 90-57. Pasted them. Blew them out so totally that Noles coach Leonard Hamilton suggested UNC coach Roy Williams and his players leave for the locker room early, lest they be caught in the frenzy of fans rushing the Tucker Center floor.
And UNC did, leaving only the walk-ons on the court with 14.2 seconds left.
It marked the biggest loss of the Williams era, worse than even the 32-point shellacking the Tar Heels suffered at Duke in 2010, the season they lost 17 games and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
It was, UNC shooting guard Dexter Strickland said, “embarrassing.”
But for the Seminoles, it was a bit of sweet revenge.
Dulkys was watching from the bench as a freshman in 2009 when point guard Ty Lawson made a running 3-pointer from the top of the key at the buzzer to lift UNC to a three-point victory.
Then he was inches away from Harrison Barnes last season when the Tar Heel’s 3-pointer with three seconds left upended the Noles, again.
“The memory of losing those close games hurt,’’ said Dulkys, whose team had dropped five straight at home to the Tar Heels before Saturday. “But it also showed us we could win.”
And at the right time.
Florida State, a veteran team with six seniors, was supposed to be a top-25 squad, a contender to push Carolina and Duke in the ACC standings this season after blocking, rebounding and defending its way to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last March.
Instead, the Seminoles have been struggling to get their groove back -- losing to two Ivy League schools and at Clemson by 20 points before showing some of their old cohesiveness in a win over Virginia Tech earlier this week.
Part of the problem had been offense, and part of that, Dulkys admitted, was on him. One of the hardest workers on the team, he’d been in the gym every day, shooting (and making) shots before most of the rest of the team arrived.
But it hadn’t translated to games; he’d connected on only seven of his 26 shot attempts over his previous six outings, and his team entered the game with the poorest 3-point shooting mark in the ACC (30.2 percent).
Until UNC came back to town.
When Dulkys buried a 3-pointer on FSU’s first possession, and two more eight minutes into the game to give his team an eight-point lead, you got the sense things might be a little different.
“When you get hot, your teammates look for you, and you just keep shooting -- and the rim gets bigger and bigger,’’ said Dulkys, who tied his season high of 16 points by halftime.
And when he followed a layup with a 3-pointer five minutes into the second half, giving his team a 21-point lead, you knew things were different (and that the rim must be looking like a swimming pool).
“I have to give some credit to my rebounder this morning; I hit 28 in a row,’’ Dulkys said, referring to his warm-up prior to the game. “I guess it was a good sign."
“There’s no question that he’s capable of doing this,’’ Hamilton said. “... Deividas is a very hard worker, a great teammate, a great student-athlete. He tries so hard that sometimes when he misses that first shot, he gets a little tight. ... I thought he relaxed tonight and played with an extreme amount of confidence and gave us a performance that we needed for us to be successful.”
Dulkys, a team leader who knocked on teammates’ doors during the summer to remind them of voluntary workouts, credited his team’s defense, “and everyone playing the way they’re capable of,” for his strong performance.
The Seminoles (11-6, 2-1 ACC) -- who also got 17 points from Michael Snaer and a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) from Okaro White -- swiped 12 steals, helped force 22 UNC turnovers, held the Tar Heels to 37.3 percent shooting and won the rebounding war 43-35.
“We had no answers for them on the court; I had no answers for them on the sideline,” said Williams, whose Tar Heels (15-3, 2-1) seemed complacent early after nine straight games at home.
Particularly when it came to Dulkys, whom he called “sensational.”
The 6-foot-5 shooter -- who said he hasn’t scored this many points since he was playing for his hometown team as a 17-year-old -- also said one of the best parts of the game was that his parents got to watch it, live.
Back home in Lithuania, he explained, his folks get only one ESPN channel. With "College GameDay" in town, they were able to tune in at 9 p.m their time.
He hadn’t checked his messages before talking to reporters, but he figured he had one (or more) from them.
That made him shrug and grin, too, kind of like when he was on the court.
“I think somebody said, ‘If I wake up tomorrow morning, it was awesome. If not, it was a dream,’’’ he said. “It’s great. I think everybody dreams about this when they were a little kid, of having a moment like this.”
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.