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No. 9 Florida St. Closes on 18-4 Run to Stun No. 1 Xavier; Advances to Sweet 16

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2018

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 18:  Braian Angola #11 of the Florida State Seminoles fights for a loose ball with Naji Marshall #13 of the Xavier Musketeers during the first half in the second round of the 2018 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 18, 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Revenge was sweet for No. 9 seed Florida State as it avenged last year's tournament loss to the Xavier Musketeers with a 75-70 win in second-round action of the 2018 NCAA tournament. 

Xavier appeared to be cruising toward a comfortable win over the Seminoles, but the loss of J.P. Macura cast some doubt on that assumption. The Musketeers star's foul trouble turned out to be the break the Seminoles needed to make a late run.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports provided context for the Florida State rally that turned the tide:

Rob Dauster @RobDauster

Florida State has outscored Xavier 16-9 since JP Macura's fourth foul. Both his third and fourth fouls were very questionable.

Shortly after Macura re-entered the game, a controversial charge ended his night. And Florida State officially climbed back to take the lead with a clutch three-pointer from PJ Savoy:

CBS Sports @CBSSports

Clutch. Bucket. https://t.co/jTyemFsgSf

After a Xavier turnover, Savoy knocked down two free throws to give the Seminoles a three-point lead with 21.6 seconds left. It turned out that would be enough as the ensuing Xavier possession ended with an air-ball three-point attempt from Kerem Kanter.

The Seminoles refused to go away despite numerous occasions when they could've allowed the game to get out of hand. While Savoy hit the big shots down the stretch, Braian Angola and Trent Forrest were the reasons the 'Noles were in it. 

Angola finished the game with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting, while Forrest was an efficient 5-of-8 from the field for 13 points. Three other Seminoles were in double digits to form a balanced attack. 

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Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

FSU not done yet... #MarchMadness Watch live: https://t.co/a0o0VBi7LZ https://t.co/rmhJ78pvB1

Macura was the MVP for the Musketeers, flying around everywhere on offense and defense before the foul trouble. Whether it was playing the top position in Xavier's 1-3-1 look or cutting to the basket, he brought the energy that built the Musketeers lead:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Chemistry on 💯. #MarchMadness https://t.co/QRBBllX9Nd

Not everyone agreed with the calls that took Macura out of the game, either:

Francis Kaminsky III @FSKPart3

3 horrible foul calls on Macura. Took the best player completely out of the game

Others questioned whether Chris Mack made the right decision to sit Macura:

The 6'10" Kanter was instrumental in Xavier keeping up with Florida State's size. The big man was aggressive in getting to the basket and boosting their presence in the paint with takes like this one:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

Kanter hit 'em with the euro! 👀 #MarchMadness https://t.co/NUAZi6kugq

But one-third of the Three Musketeers is going to be disappointed in his performance. Star guard Trevon Bluiett didn't score his first field goal until the 13-minute mark of the second half and finished with just eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Angola was not only a strong performer for Florida State on offense but also got the credit for stifling Bluiett:

Shannon Russell @slrussell

Braian Angola is sticking close to Trevon Bluiett, who is 0-for-3 today.

Still, Bluiett did at least set the school record for most three-pointers in a season, per Xavier Gameday. The March Madness Twitter account provided the highlight:

NCAA March Madness @marchmadness

The Musketeers are starting to heat up! 🔥 #MarchMadness https://t.co/hwTjmRvgnW

The first half was a game of runs. Xavier got off to a quiet start with Macura and Kanter scoring the team's first 14 points before opening up a nine-point lead. However, the Musketeers had a nine-minute cold spell without a field goal as Macura, Kanter and Bluiett each sat with two fouls.

A three-pointer by Macura finally snapped the drought, and they went into the half with a 34-32 lead. As it turned out, that drought was a harbinger of things to come for the doomed Xavier team. 

Last year, the Musketeers rode the momentum from their shocking win over Florida State to an Elite Eight berth. This year, the Seminoles will look to be the team that makes an improbable run after upsetting Xavier when they take on the fourth-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday.  

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