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Nov. 19, 1997

Seminoles Advance To Nit Final Four With Win Over Utah State

TALLAHASSEE, FL -- Steve Robinson and the Florida State men's basketball team are going to New York. Again.

The Seminoles defeated Utah State 66-55 on Wednesday night in the Leon County Civic Center in the second round of the Chase Preseason NIT to advance to the event's Final Four next week in Madison Square Garden.

Robinson, FSU first year head coach, will be making an appearance in the Preseason NIT's Final Four for the second consecutive year. He guided Tulsa to a third place finish in the tournament last year.

Meanwhile, the Seminoles were runners-up in the postseason version of the event last March, also at the Garden.

On Wednesday, it was New York native Kerry Thompson and junior college transfer Terrell Baker that pushed FSU, now 3-0, into next Wednesday's semifinals.

Thompson scored a game-high 16 points while Baker added 14 points, eight rebounds and four steals.

"I am happy to be going to New York," said Robinson, who took over at Florida State on July 1 after posting a 46-18 record with the Golden Hurricane during the last two seasons. "I am so happy for our kids. We did everything we needed to do to win this game tonight. We did the things - get defensive stops, make free throws and execute on offensive - to put the game away down the stretch."

The Seminoles, who will meet 12th ranked Connecticut, an 80-67 winner in the second round over No. 20 Rhode Island on Wednesday, jumped out to a 16-pointlead in the first quarter behind Thompson's nine points and Corey Louis' eight. But after being held to just six points over the final 11 minutes of the first half, FSU led only 33-28 at intermission.

"I gave them a nice talking to at halftime," said Robinson, half-jokingly, of his locker room speech. "But we got solid play in the second half and were able to put it away."

This will be Robinson's fourth coaching appearance in the tournament's Final Four. As an assistant under Roy Williams at Kansas, he helped the Jayhawks win the tournament twice.

The meeting with Connecticut in next Wednesday's semifinals will be familiar. Florida State defeated the Huskies in last year's NIT semifinals in the Garden, 71-65 in overtime. The Seminoles have four starters back from that team while UConn returns all five.

Florida State sent that game into overtime when Thompson buried a three-pointer with three seconds remaining in regulation.

The rematch between the Seminoles and Huskies will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN. The consolation and championship games of the tournament will be held on Friday, Nov. 28.

The Seminoles return home on December 2 when they host Florida Atlantic.

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