Andrew Miller, Correspondent
TALLAHASSEE, FLA., (www.franchisesportsonline.net) – Florida State survived a late surge by Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night, winning their first game in the NCAA Tournament since 2012.
The Seminoles (26-8) used their collective size to alter shots all night, producing nine blocks over the course of the game to overcome poor foul shooting at the end.
“We’ve been a team that contests shots and changes shots all year long. It’s a part of who we are,” Coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game.
Florida State initially pulled away to a comfortable lead as the game winded down, but a barrage of careless mistakes combined with atrocious free throw shooting allowed Florida Gulf Coast to get back into the game. The Eagles (26-8) went on a late 7-2 run with 1:45 left, bringing the score to 82-76, but were ultimately unable to complete the comeback.
“I thought our players are finding a lot better ways to get the ball to people and be more consistent with execution, and I thought it made a big difference” Hamilton said.
The Seminoles were adamant in attacking the rim in the second half. Sophomore Terance Mann came up big in the first few minutes out of the break for the Seminoles, scoring the team’s first seven points of the half.
Junior Dwayne Bacon was also very effective with his body control during his contested layups and mid-range shots, shifting and contorting his body on the way to 25 points.
Freshman Jonathan Isaac put up an impressive double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also had 3 blocks. His ability to stretch the floor is key for the Seminoles going forward, as his perimeter shooting draws opposing bigs away from the basket.
Both teams were quick out of the gate. The first half was characterized by explosive offensive performances from two squads that were ranked first (FSU) and third (FGCU) in dunks nationally. The fast pace at the start of the contest allowed both teams to get into the paint and get high percentage looks, culminating into a barrage of slams and alley-oops.
The Seminoles’ fortune changed with around seven minutes left in the first half, when the Eagles (26-8) switched from man-to-man to a zone defense. The Seminoles went cold from the field and were held scoreless for five whole minutes while the Eagles went on a 12-0 run to get them back into the game. Junior Brandon Goodwin left his mark on offense for the Eagles, leading all scorers with 28 points. Nevertheless, the Seminoles led 40-36 at halftime.
The Seminoles did not seem to be content with perimeter shots, and with their extensive height and length, they shouldn’t be. They forced the Eagles to shoot twice as many threes, typically a good omen in regard to control of the paint. If they can continue to attack the paint on offense and alter shots on defense, they will be tough to defeat as the Big Dance rolls on.
Florida State advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will meet the No. 11 seed Xavier Musketeers on Saturday, March 18 at 6:10 PM.