ORLANDO, Fla. -- Xavier used a harassing zone defense to stifle Florida State on one end of the floor and rode a balanced scoring attack to put the Seminoles away on the other end. Once a bubble team that was the last to hear its name called on Selection Sunday, No. 11 seed Xavier is headed back to the Sweet 16 after a convincing 91-66 victory over third-seeded Florida State on Saturday at Amway Center. "I don't even know where to start," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "I'm so excited for the guys next to me (who were speaking to the media) and the guys in the locker room. They earned it. Our team's gone through a lot of adversity this year, and we stayed the course." Trevon Bluiett scored a game-high 29 points for the Musketeers (23-13), who will play either Arizona or St. Mary's next week at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. It will be Xavier's sixth appearance in the Sweet 16 over the past decade. Xavier took control of the game early and put it away with a 14-2 run in the second half. J.P. Macura nailed one 3-pointer before Kaiser Gates connected on three in a stunning outburst that left the Seminoles visibly staggered. Tyrique Jones put an exclamation point on the surge with a rim-rattling dunk after catching a pass from Macura in the lane. For good measure, Jones followed that with a layup, plus the foul shot moments later -- much to the delight of Musketeers fans in attendance. Gates finished with 14 points, including four 3s. Jones (13 points, four rebounds), Sean O'Mara (11 points, five rebounds) and Macura (10 points, five assists) rounded out a balanced effort that was too much for the Seminoles. "To have that type of depth ... is kind of critical for us," Bluiett said. Dwayne Bacon led the Seminoles (26-9) with 20 points but missed all five of his 3s. Florida State shot just 4 of 21 from behind the arc, unable to sustain any of the offensive momentum it developed while beating Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday. Standout freshman forward Jonathan Isaac also struggled, finishing with eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. He pulled down 12 rebounds but was mostly a non-factor offensively for the Seminoles before fouling out with 1:35 remaining. "I don't think they played very well, to be quite honest," Mack said. "I think we had a lot to do with that. I think our zones affected them." The rout was on early -- and looked similar to the way Xavier dispatched Maryland in the opening round Thursday. Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton was forced to take a timeout to regroup his team after Bluiett nailed a 3 to push his team's lead to 20-10, but that did little to help. O'Mara made a layup and drew a foul with 9:24 before halftime to stretch Xavier's lead to 25-10, and the Musketeers led 44-34 at halftime. O'Mara, who scored a career-high 18 points against the Terrapins, was unafraid of going right at Florida State's sizable front line. Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 16 points and PJ Savoy chipped in with 10 for the Seminoles, who had just two fast-break points and never forced the Musketeers to play their style in the loss. "This team has always been able to find a way to win in spite of maybe some of our shortcomings," Hamilton said, "and today it kind of caught up with us." NOTES: Florida State F Jonathan Isaac made his first field goal with 5:55 remaining in the first half, finishing a dunk after a pass from G Xavier Rathan-Mayes. ... The Seminoles were trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011, when they lost 72-71 to VCU. Florida State finished one win shy of tying the program mark of 27 wins set during the 1971-72 season. ... Xavier outscored Florida State 36-26 in the paint. ... The Musketeers hit 11 of 17 3-pointers.
No. 11 seed Xavier stuns No. 3 Florida State
The Sports Xchange | Mar 18