NCAA basketball tournament 2010: Gonzaga holds off Florida State
Saturday, March 20, 2010
BUFFALO -- Gonzaga's spot among the nation's top basketball programs has been established gradually during the past decade despite its affiliation with the mid-major West Coast Conference. Perhaps the best testimony of its rise could be seen in Coach Mark Few's admission that even a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament does not satisfy some Bulldogs fans.
Those hard-to-please fans would be delighted that for the ninth time in 12 seasons, Gonzaga has won a game in the NCAA tournament. The latest came Friday when the Bulldogs defeated ninth-seeded Florida State, 67-60, in a first-round West Region game. They will play top-seeded Syracuse on Sunday.
"I don't know if fair exists out there in the world," Few said. "It's one of the tough things when you're in that eight or nine game. You have to play a one seed."
Gonzaga (27-6) remained poised against one of the nation's top defenses. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent from the field and hit 10 of 12 free throws in the game's final five minutes. The high-pressure situations were nothing new after a schedule that included the Maui Invitational, a game against Duke at Madison Square Garden and a game at Michigan State.
"We play in so many big games like that all across the country that they're essentially NCAA tournament games," senior Matt Bouldin said.
Much of Gonzaga's work took place in the first half, when the Bulldogs jumped to a 16-point halftime lead. Florida State (22-10) methodically chopped away at the lead in the second half. The Seminoles never embarked on a major run, instead making stops and starting to hit shots at a greater frequency than in the first half. After hitting just one three-pointer in the first half, the Seminoles nailed five after intermission.
Florida State had the opportunity to cut Gonzaga's lead to two points in the game's final two minutes. Seminoles freshman Michael Snaer missed a pair of free throws, and the Bulldogs were fouled on the other end. Bouldin hit both of his free throws to give the Bulldogs a six-point cushion -- enough to hold off Florida State.
"I thought we were a little anxious," Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said, "and a little bit of our inexperience I thought showed."
-- SYRACUSE 79, VERMONT 56: With injured center Arinze Onuaku on the bench in a sweat suit and most of the HSBC Arena's crowd sporting a familiar color, the top-seeded Orange played what was essentially a home game without one of its best players. Neither factored heavily as Syracuse easily topped the 16th-seeded Catamounts.
Vermont upset Syracuse in the 2005 NCAA tournament, but there were no signs of a repeat in Buffalo. The Catamounts' Maurice Joseph opened the game with a three-pointer, but that was as much of a threat as Vermont could mount.
Rick Jackson picked up Onuaku's workload, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds. Syracuse forward Wes Johnson scored 18 points.