While both teams fought down to the wire, the 4th-seeded Florida State Seminoles came out on top this afternoon, beating the 13th-seeded Vermont Catamounts 76-69 to keep on dancing. The victory gave FSU a single-season record with 28 wins and moved the ’Noles onto Saturday’s second round.
With a little over 12 minutes left in the first half, Vermont jumped ahead of the Seminoles by 9. While Florida State trailed for a majority of the first, the ’Noles rallied, ending the half tied 27-27. The Seminoles definitely expected Vermont to come in hot from outside the arc, but to say the Catamounts were on fire from deep is an understatement. Of Vermont’s 27 points in the first half, 21 points were from the perimeter, as UVM made 7-12 before intermission. The Cats stayed hot from beyond the arc throughout, finishing the game 16-32 (50.0%)— a historically small number of teams have defeated a squad making that many treys in the tourney.
Florida State and Vermont kept it within a few points for a majority of the second half, as well, but the Seminoles’ junkyard defense did what it does best and wore Vermont down, ultimately shifting the tide in FSU’s favor during the final few minutes. Despite playing in a Hartford, Connecticut environment that felt much like a home game for the Cats, Florida State was dominant from pretty much everywhere but afar. Florida State forced 16 turnovers, leading to a 17-5 edge in points off turnovers and scored 16 second-choice points against the second best defensive rebounding team in the nation. While the Seminoles have struggled throughout the season with taking care of the ball, today they only turned the ball over seven times. Florida State also dominated in the paint, scoring 30 points down low, while keeping UVM to 14 interior points.
The charity stripe also proved pivotal for the ’Noles in the end. Florida State shot 31-37 (84%), including 24-28 (86%) in the second half, helping to put Vermont away for good (the Catamounts only made 7-13). Redshirt-sophomore forward Mfiondu Kabengele led Florida State with 21 points and 10 rebounds giving him his fourth career double-double:
Mfiondu Kabengele had 21 points and 10 rebounds in Florida State's win over Vermont.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 21, 2019
He's just the 4th player in the past 20 tournaments with a 20-10 game off the bench, joining Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo (2017), UNC's Marvin Williams (2005) & Villanova's Jason Fraser (2005). pic.twitter.com/pHsD8aJEhZ
Terance Mann scored 19 points and added 8 rebounds. The senior was huge down the stretch as 17 of his points came in the second half.
The Seminoles appeared to finally put Vermont away following an emotional Kabengele slam that ignited the team, extending Florida State’s lead to 61-53 with just under four minutes left:
Florida State CANNOT be stopped! #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/Xmi98IuQ1s— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2019
In the post-game press conference, Kabengele emphasized his importance as the emotional team leader, and his performance this afternoon showed just that.
#Noles fight off the Catamounts!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 21, 2019
(4) Florida State withstands a battle from (13) Vermont to secure a spot in Round 2! #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/NJkaFZxFRo
With the victory, Florida State will face Murray State on Saturday, after the Racers blew by Marquette.