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FSU’s defense throttles Gonzaga to advance to Elite 8

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-West Regional-Florida State vs Gonzaga Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Seminoles’ much maligned defense has come alive just in time. In FSU’s first two NCAA Tournament games, the defense did enough to allow the offense to take over. In the Sweet 16 - against one of the elite offenses in the nation - the Seminole defense was dominant, forcing Gonzaga into their worst offensive performance in seven years. After a big FSU run to close out the 1st half, the Gonzaga Bulldogs were never able to mount a comeback, and Florida State advanced to the Elite-8 behind a 75-60 win.

The game began with Florida State clicking on all cylinders. After falling behind 6-5, a quick 11-1 run put FSU up nine. From there, it was a long, slow slog for the Zags to catch up. They eventually took a 3-point lead with about six minutes left in the half. But the resilience from the ’Noles in the NCAA Tournament continued, as they stormed back, finishing the half on an 8-0 run to take a 41-32 lead at the break.

In the 2nd half, FSU fans have become accustomed to the opponent making a big run out of the break, but that wasn’t the case tonight. The closest Gonzaga got was within four, but that took 10 minutes of the 2nd half.

Down the stretch, Florida State slowed it down and beat the Zags at their own game. The ’Noles drained clock, before repeatedly beating Gonzaga off the dribble, and there was nothing the Bulldogs could do.

Once Gonzaga missed a few shots, FSU quickly stretched the lead back to double-digits, and it was out of reach with more than four minutes to play.

The end was already written, and Florida State coasted to a 15-point win.

It’s the first Elite-8 appearance for FSU in 25 years.

Terance Mann played what was perhaps his best game of the year. He scored 18 points, making 8-10 2s, and was relentless driving into the Zags’ defense. Braian Angola had nine points, six rebounds, and five assists. And CJ Walker had nine points.

But the game ball goes to the FSU defense. And for this FSU team, it couldn’t come at a better time.

FSU will face 3-seed Michigan on Saturday night, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.