Down nine points to the No. 1 seed in the West Region with 5:35 to play, it looked like the Seminoles’ season was over. Then the Florida State offense went on one of their patented runs. The surprising thing was that the defense stepped up at the same time, and FSU played a near perfect final five minutes to upset Xavier, 75-70.
The game began with a dream start for the ’Noles. Braian Angola knocked down two 3s, giving Florida State an early 8-2 lead.
But slowly, Xavier’s elite offense began to assert itself.
They used a 22-7 run to take control of the game midway through the first half.
This Florida State team has proven to be resilient, if nothing else, though, and they battled back to take a 32-29 lead with 20 seconds left in the half.
Then everything fell apart. Xavier knocked down a three, and that was compounded by a Christ Koumadje foul on the other end just before the buzzer. Two free throws later, and FSU was down two at the break.
In the 2nd half, the top-seeded Musketeers asserted themselves. Xavier has an elite offense, and they proved it by running the lead out to 12 with less than 10 minutes to play. Florida State worked repeatedly for open 3s, but couldn’t convert, and the transition opportunities from the 1st half just weren’t there.
However, as shown in the first half, the Seminoles are resilient. Florida State went small and made just enough defensive stops to keep the game within striking distance.
And then, with five and a half minutes to play, FSU took over.
Terance Mann made a short jumper, and then the ’Noles turned two quick stops into fast breaks with Trent Forrest scoring each time (including an and-1) to cut the lead to two.
After a nice move from Kerem Kanter pushed Xavier’s lead back to four, Mfiondu Kabengele turned two FSU misses into four points on putbacks, and the game was tied.
The Musketeers then hit a pair of free throws, before Trent Forrest picked off a Trevon Bluiett pass and turned it into another fast break. This time, he found PJ Savoy on the wing, who buried the 3-pointer. Suddenly, Florida State had its first lead since early in the contest.
Clinging to a 1-point lead, Angola forced another turnover from Xavier’s star - Bluiett - and the Musketeers decided to foul. But it didn’t pan out, as Savoy stepped up and made the free throws.
Down three, Xavier ran a very disjointed set, ending with Kanter airballing a three.
On the other end, CJ Walker iced the game with two more free throws.
And the Seminoles advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 75-70 win.
Angola led FSU with 16 points. Forrest had 13 points and four steals. Savoy made 3-5 3s and scored 11. And Terance Mann and Phil Cofer each had 10.
FSU improves to 22-11 and will face Gonzaga late Thursday night in Los Angeles.