Survive and advance. (3)Florida State did just that, topping (14) St. Bonaventure 66-63 Friday in Nashville, Tennessee.
What started as a second-round matchup in the East Region looked more like two heavyweight championship boxers showcasing their strength, speed and endurance. Eventually, the Seminoles imposed their will on the Bonnies, giving coach Leonard Hamilton his 179th career victory.
St. Bonaventure jumped out to a quick 7-0 run and maintained it throughout the first half, largely in part to Andrew Nicholson, who scored 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks within the first eight minutes of play, before having to sit with two fouls.
Speaking of foul trouble, FSU guard Michael Snaer, who was held scoreless in the game (0-7) picked up two quick fouls, forcing coach Leonard Hamilton to sit him for most of the first half. Had it not been for an 8-0 Seminoles run midway through the first half, capped by Ian Miller's three-pointer, the game may have slipped away.
With his team trailing 34-28 at halftime, Leonard Hamilton's speech worked. FSU began the second session with an Xavier Gibson reverse layup, followed by a Bernard James block against Nicholson, and a subsequent jam by the former Air Force staff sergeant, pulling the Noles within two, 34-32.
Both teams competed back and forth as the game reached midway through the second half. Trailing 46-40, senior Luke Loucks, with fiancé', family and friends in the stands, scored on a driving lay-up, and later tossed a full-court pass to Jon Kreft for a two-handed jam, keeping the Noles within reach
FSU's relentless, defensive energy created run outs, exemplified when Loucks' missed attempt was jammed home by a trailing Bernard James.
Trailing by as many as ten throughout the course of the game, Ian Miller gave FSU its first lead, draining a three pointer to put the Seminoles up 55-52, and they wouldn't look back.
Leading 66-63 with seconds to play, the Seminoles relied upon their length, forcing two ill-advised shot attempts by the Bonnies to miss the mark, giving Florida State the three-point victory and a date with the (6) Cincinnati Bearcats on Sunday.
Bernard James led the Seminoles with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. Fellow senior Luke Loucks ended with 13 points 7 rebounds and 6 assists in the victory. Alex Nicholson led St. Bonaventure with 20 points and 7 rebounds in defeat.