FSU knows mistakes would be costly vs. Xavier
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There was plenty for Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton to be excited about following his team's victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament's West Region.
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Still, the Seminoles have a few areas of concern.
Third-seeded Florida State advanced to the second round despite sloppy stretches of offense and too many clunkers from the foul line, two areas that must be fixed immediately before facing 11th-seeded Xavier on Saturday at Amway Center. The winner is headed to the Sweet 16 in San Jose, Calif.
"We didn't shoot free throws very well down the stretch, and if you don't knock those free throws down, you can put yourself in a (bad) position," Hamilton said. "It makes everything look bad."
Most of what the Seminoles (26-8) were able to do during their 86-80 victory over the Eagles looked pretty good.
Dwayne Bacon scored an efficient 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Jonathan Isaac recorded a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Terance Mann and Xavier Rathan-Mayes each chipped in with solid offensive nights, too, as the Seminoles controlled the paint (44 points) and fastbreaks (outscoring Florida Gulf Coast 12-4).
The foul line was a different story, and the Seminoles missed out on plenty of points. That might be OK against an overmatched team like the Eagles, but it could have consequences against Xavier and other teams should the Seminoles continue to advance.
Florida State was just 24 of 39 (61.5 percent) at the free-throw line, which allowed Florida Gulf Coast to hang around in the second half. Missed free throws by the Seminoles in the final minute allowed the Eagles to creep within 82-77 before they ran out of time.
Ask Maryland how that works against Xavier, which trailed by five points in the second half in its opening-round game. Trevon Bluiett then found his rhythm and buried the Terrapins with a game-high 21 points, including five made 3-pointers. The answer is not well.
The Musketeers (22-13) played far from a perfect game but have a player in Bluiett who will attack the Seminoles relentlessly as Eagles guard Brandon Goodwin did while scoring 28 points. The Seminoles will need all the points they can get against Xavier, which had five players score at least nine on Thursday.
"Once I get a couple to go in, then you get a little rhythm going and then everything starts to fall in," Bluiett said. "Everything you shoot just feels good."
The Seminoles are aware of some areas they must clean up. In addition to trouble at the foul line, they turned the ball over 16 times against the Eagles and allowed 19 points off those giveaways.
While there was plenty of reason for optimism after the win, a tougher looming opponent, Xavier, brought an immediate sense of urgency to correct Florida State's mistakes.
"They're a great team," Bacon said of the Musketeers. "We've got to get prepared."