The third-seeded Florida State Seminoles don't care that No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast was a fun upset pick. Leonard Hamilton's squad dashed any idea of a Cinderella run from the Eagles with an 86-80 win to advance to the second round at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.
It didn't come without a little bit of drama, though. As was the case throughout the game, the underdogs refused to go away. The 'Noles had to take care of business at the free-throw line to ice the game when a late Eagles run got the game to within six, with Christian Terrell at the line with 34 seconds to go.
Instead, Terrell split the free throws, and Dwayne Bacon sunk one on the other end to put the game out of reach.
It was a microcosm of the entire game.
Florida State never could get much distance between itself and the Eagles, but it was able to remain in control for most of the game thanks to strong performances from Jonathan Isaac and Bacon.
Isaac showcased the abilities that make him a potential lottery pick in the NBA draft with a comprehensive line of 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to go with two steals and three blocks on the defensive end.
Bacon served as the primary scorer, filling up the box score with 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.
When people think of the Seminoles, they think of Isaac and Bacon, but the tournament is all about role players stepping up. Terance Mann certainly did just that for Florida State in this game.
With FGCU down only four at halftime, Mann scored eight straight points for the 'Noles to kick off the second half. Florida State's superior depth turned out to be the difference in the game.
Unfortunately, that disadvantage was exacerbated when the Eagles lost Demetris Morant. The big man had five points and five rebounds before leaving the game with an injury. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press noted the difference without him:
The Eagles weren't willing to just walk away. The Eagles got within four after a Marc-Eddy Norelia layup, but Florida State answered with a run that moved the lead back to 12.
Despite Florida Gulf Coast's reputation, it was Florida State that got to the rim more often than not, per Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples:
As the tallest team in the tournament, the 'Noles are marked by their athleticism. NFL Network's Rich Eisen noted the imposing presence of Florida State.
The Eagles made a name for themselves with an improbable run to the Sweet 16 in 2013, where they earned the moniker Dunk City. While they no longer play with the same up-and-down pace, have a new coach and completely different players, it didn't stop them from reliving some of that glory.
Florida Gulf Coast's very first basket of the game was an emphatic dunk that set the tone for a chaotic first half:
Rayjon Tucker also took flight for FGCU:
This rendition of Dunk City was a little less reliant on rim-rattlers and a little more prone to shoot from three, though. The Eagles used a 4-of-12 shooting performance from beyond the arc to take advantage of Florida State's 0-of-5 mark from distance in the first 20 minutes.
Florida State provided some highlight moments of its own in the first half. Bacon took the game over to close out the half, starting with an electrifying dunk:
Jeff Borzello of ESPN detailed the one-man run that was Bacon to close out the half:
Bacon's 16 first-half points helped his team take a 40-36 lead into the half.
While Bacon is already a well-known commodity in the college basketball world, FGCU's Brandon Goodwin put up 14 points in the first half, which should have been no surprise to anyone who has seen him go against top competition before, as noted by John Gasaway of ESPN:
He finished the game with 28 points in an impressive effort that came just shy of making things interesting at the end.
While Hamilton gave Florida Gulf Coast credit, he wanted to see his team be more aggressive going into the second half:
Obviously that was advice his players heeded.
Now Florida State will look to make the most of its first tournament appearance since 2012 by beating the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers in the second round. Chris Mack's squad advanced to the second round with a 76-65 defeat of No. 6 Maryland.
Isaac had some highlight dunks in the game and poked a little fun at the Dunk City moniker while hyping his team, per Walker Carey:
This was far from a perfect performance from Florida State, though. Among other things that need to be cleaned up if it wants to make a run, the team struggled to consistently connect at the line. Hamilton addressed the flaw after the game, per the Associated Press' Mark Long:
Florida Gulf Coast's head coach, Joe Dooley, was disappointed in his team's shot selection.
"I thought some of the bad shots we took were as bad as turnovers," he said, per Rush the Court. "Those add up and end up hurting you."
The 29-of-70 performance from the floor, including 28 threes, is probably what the coach was talking about. But when you're a No. 14 seed trying to create some March magic, it's understandable why a team might get a little trigger happy.