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Jan. 17, 2012
By Bill Hass
GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) - Sometimes the simplest explanation says it all.
"It was just one of those days."
Anyone who has played competitive sports knows exactly what Deividas Dulkys of Florida State meant when asked to explain how he dropped 32 points on North Carolina as the Seminoles thrashed the Tar Heels, ranked No. 3 at the time, 90-57 Saturday.
And Dulkys knows none of those points will matter when his team plays at home against Maryland Tuesday night. He and his teammates basked in the glow of Saturday's game for a few hours that night. Mentally, they have moved on.
"We're focusing on Maryland right now, since it's the next game on our schedule," Dulkys said. "If that would have been the last game of the year it would have been great, but we still have a long way to go."
The Seminoles have 13 games remaining to sort out where they fit in the ACC standings. Currently they're 2-1 in league play and 11-6 overall. Has the Seminole team that everyone expected at the beginning of the season finally shown up?
"The only way it's going to change perceptions is if we keep playing well," said coach Leonard Hamilton. "We'll have to see what this game does mean in relation to how we continue to play, how we finish the season up.
"We think we have a chance to be a pretty good basketball team but we have not been consistent in a lot of different areas. What we have to do is keep stacking on some good games back-to-back-to-back and we'll evaluate that at the end of the season."
As a senior, Dulkys should have considerable impact on how things play out for the Seminoles. He's a good 3-point shooter, as everyone knows by now, but he helps in other aspects of the game. You can't play four years for Hamilton without absorbing some basic lessons.
"Florida State has been known for how well we defend and we've got to keep building on that," Dulkys said. "And of course our offense - maybe some more transition points, get some easy baskets, just keep doing those little things like setting good screens, coming off those screens, offensive rebounding, those things coach always wants us to do."
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Defense, Dulkys said, was the key to beating North Carolina. He said FSU's offense came from a lot of steals, pushing the ball up the court, getting some easy baskets and then extending the lead.
Of course, his own contributions were considerable. Dulkys hit 12-of-14 shots, including 8-of-10 behind the 3-point line. He set a career high in points and a Florida State record for 3s in an ACC game.
The scoring outburst was unexpected in one sense because Dulkys had been mired in a slump. On Nov. 26 he scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-of-5 on 3s) in a loss to UConn. Over the next nine games he managed just 32 total points while shooting 25 percent overall and 17 percent on 3-pointers.
"We all know Deividas has been our best jump shooter over the last two or three years," Hamilton said. "Like a lot of players he's been trying so hard that I think he just hasn't relaxed this year and hasn't shot the ball quite as consistently as he has in the past. I think the fact that we haven't been playing well has been weighing heavily on him."
Who knows where "one of those days" originates? For Dulkys, it might have been in the morning shoot-around when he made 28 straight 3-pointers, a personal best. Sometimes those streaks carry into a game and sometimes they don't.
On this day, Dulkys took Florida State's first shot and nailed a 3 less than a minute into the game. Essentially, the rout was on and he kept hitting shot after shot.
"You felt like whenever you shot it, it was going in," Dulkys said, "and if it didn't the next one was going to go in. I was very grateful for my teammates getting me the ball and I just knocked it down.
"You try not to think about it. You just keep going and going and the rim just gets bigger and bigger with every shot you make. That's (true) for every shooter and every player. When you get hot, you get hot."
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he had seen the recent stats on Dulkys and said his team didn't do a good job of adjusting when he got hot. The Tar Heels got a hand in his face on occasion but didn't rotate to cover him on others.
"But, boy, just congratulate him because he made some when we were there and he didn't have to make all of them when he was open," Williams said.
Hamilton said the Seminoles ran only a few sets for Dulkys and his points came within the flow of the offense, which his team executed very well.
"He just relaxed himself," Hamilton said, "and it was one of those games that I'm sure every player will have in their career where it seems they come out of their stressful mental state."
And just to show that his game wasn't one-dimensional, Dulkys matched his season highs with four assists and four steals.
Because North Carolina is such a quick-striking team, none of the Seminoles felt they had the game wrapped up until the lead hit 30 points with four minutes left. As the final seconds ticked off, the crowd chanted "Dul-kys! Dul-kys!" As his parents watched on TV in his native Lithuania, he went over to shake hands and pose for a picture with ESPN analyst Dick Vitale.
"It was amazing," Dulkys said of the whole experience. "You just try to soak in everything. There's a lot of emotion going, a lot of people congratulating you. It's one of those feelings you can't express in words. It's once in a lifetime, I guess."
It might have been even beyond his dreams while he was growing up in Silute, a town of abut 23,000 in western Lithuania. Basketball was his passion and he played point guard for his town team against other town teams.
He realized that in order to further develop his basketball skills and receive an education, he needed to play in the United States. So at age 17 he left his home and ultimately landed at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas.
As he grew to 6-5, his game changed and he learned to become a guard who came off screens. Dulkys attracted recruiting attention and considered California, San Diego State, Miami, Connecticut and Tennessee before picking Florida State.
What Hamilton liked about him was that Dulkys was different from many European players who have excellent skills but limited athletic ability.
"He has a 40-inch vertical (jump), he's a very strong athlete, plays tremendous defense, he shoots the ball well," Hamilton said. "He is extremely hard-nosed, tough, physical and athletic and he's worked hard to improve his skills."
Dulkys played limited minutes as a freshman, averaging 3.6 points, but improved to 8.7 as a sophomore. After hitting 7.3 points per game as a junior, he's at 7.7 this season.
Hamilton classifies Dulkys as a "gym rat," an ultimate accolade applied to someone who's always there before anyone else and usually the last to leave.
"It's a habit," Dulkys said. "I love coming to the gym, I love shooting, I love working out and I don't know what I would do if I wouldn't be able to do it. It's fun for me."
Against Maryland, Dulkys expects a fairly slow tempo and one of those grind-it-out affairs in which every possession will be critical. He doesn't know if his standout game will carry over, but added the important thing against Maryland is winning the game rather than his individual performance.
Expect the Terps to be ready for him.
"Whenever you've got a guy coming off a hot game like that," said Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, "you want to pay attention early so they can't get going again."
In other words, don't let "just one of those days" become two in a row at his team's expense.
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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