NASHVILLE — Clearwater's Luke Loucks had nine of Florida State's final 13 points Sunday night, but his two costly turnovers in the final two minutes helped sixth-seeded Cincinnati pull out a physical, back-and-forth 62-56 win against the third-seeded Seminoles, sending a fourth Ohio school to the Sweet 16.
FSU (25-10) led 50-49 on two Loucks free throws with 2:09 left before the Bearcats' Sean Kilpatrick hit a free throw that tied it at 50. Then the game shifted seconds later when a Loucks pass was stolen by Cincinnati's Dion Dixon, who went in for an uncontested dunk and a 52-50 lead.
The Bearcats' Cashmere Wright hit a jumper on the next possession, and Loucks was called for a travel — he left his feet without shooting, thinking he had a foul call coming — with 48 seconds left.
Cincinnati (26-10) went 8-for-8 on free throws in the final 35 seconds, sending the ACC champions home and the Bearcats advancing to face second-seeded Ohio State on Thursday in Boston.
"We lost to a team that had 13 steals. We turned the ball over 17 times that led to 19 points," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
"They were a tremendous strip team. They did a very good job with deflections and steals, causing us to cough it up and leading to baskets. Had we taken care of the ball a lot better, at least we would have given ourselves a chance. As I look back on the game, that was probably what did us in."
The two teams battled in a grind of a game, with neither leading by more than five points until Cincinnati went up by six in the final minute.
FSU got 14 points and four assists from Loucks, who had hit a crucial 3-pointer to answer one from the Bearcats and tie the score with 3:25 left. FSU's Bernard James added 12 points, including two dunks in the final three minutes.
"I can't say how proud I am of this team," said Hamilton, noting that the Seminoles opened the season 9-6. "I really feel they gave me what they had, and they represented the Florida State and Tallahassee communities in as fine a fashion as I've ever seen in a basketball team. We're not going to allow this last game to identify who we are and what we've become."
FSU's leading scorer, Michael Snaer, who had been held scoreless in Friday's second-round win against St. Bonaventure, hit two 3s in the first three minutes and finished with 11 points, but the game's big scorer was Kilpatrick, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put Cincinnati up 49-46 after the Bearcats had trailed for much of the second half. Kilpatrick finished with 18 points.
"Coming down the stretch, we did make some mistakes, but the effort was there and the intensity was there, too," James said. "It just didn't go our way tonight."
With Cincinnati's win, the Sweet 16 has four teams each from the Big East and Big Ten, and the Bearcats join Ohio State, Xavier and Ohio in representing their state later this week. The Bobcats had won on the same court by an identical score in eliminating USF two hours earlier.