Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Xavier hands FSU worst NCAA Tournament loss since 1993

ORLANDO — FSU freshman Jonathan Isaac sat in a corner locker Saturday night at Amway Center, his long arms folded on his knees, still trying to comprehend the finality of his third-seeded Seminoles falling hard in a 91-66 rout at the hands of 11th-seeded Xavier.

"Everything went wrong," Isaac said. "We were just a step behind on all their schemes and their counters. … They did their job, did what they do and we just weren't on it. It's devastating for me. I can't even imagine how it is for guys like (seniors Michael) Ojo and Quez (Smith). This is their last rodeo."

Isaac, too, may have played his last game at FSU as a potential top-five pick in the NBA draft. The same may be true for sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, a projected lottery pick who had a team-high 20 points but said it's too early to ponder his future.

"We weren't hitting shots and we were slacking on defense," said Bacon, seeing Xavier go 11-for-17 on 3-pointers while the Seminoles went 4-for-21. "Today was crazy, but going forward, we can learn a lot from this game. It stings a lot, but we've been through a lot this year. We had a successful season, but this one hurts because our season is over."

Xavier (23-13) knows that pain well — last year, they went out in the same round as a No. 2 seed, falling to seventh-seeded Wisconsin. Two weeks ago, the Musketeers were mired in a six-game losing streak, battling injuries and inconsistency, but they've pulled off back-to-back upsets to reach the Sweet 16.

"One of the reasons I love this team is that all the way down the line, everybody's tough," said guard J.P. Macura, who had 10 points and five assists. "Everybody loves to win, and we play hard, and we showed that in the past month."

Down 10 with 14 minutes to play, FSU missed three chances to cut Xavier's lead to single digits, then saw the Musketeers go on an 11-0 run, sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers. Xavier's Trevon Bluiett finished with 29 points, giving him 50 in two games in Orlando, including 39 points in the second half of those games.

"I don't think (FSU) played very well, to be quite honest," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "I think we had a lot to do with that …They didn't play their best, and our guys played really loose and together and followed a game plan. There's a belief within this team that we can play with anybody."

Xavier advances to its fourth Sweet 16 under Mack — they've now done so seeded sixth, 10th, sixth and 11th — and will play in San Jose next weekend against second-seeded Arizona, which rallied past seventh-seeded Saint Mary's.

FSU took its most lopsided tournament loss since another 25-point loss to Kentucky in 1993, and despite its high seed, left with only one Sweet 16 appearance (2011) in 15 seasons under Leonard Hamilton.

     
                             
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Published: 06/19/18