Playing in his first NCAA Tournament game had no effect on Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon.
The sophomore shooting guard scored a team-high 25 points and added nine rebounds to lead No. 3 seed Florida State to a 86-80 win over No. 14 seed Florida Gulf Coast on Thursday night in Orlando’s Amway Center despite a late push from the Eagles.
Freshman Jonathan Isaac added 17 points and 10 points for his eighth double-double of the season. Terance Mann chipped in 11 for the Seminoles (26-8), who are playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
“We were very fortunate to hang on for a victory,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game that ended just before midnight. “... We had a lot of anxious moments.”
Despite holding onto the lead for all but about four minutes, FSU never had full control or got to a point where it felt comfortable with its lead.
Florida Gulf Coast took its biggest lead of the game, 31-28, on a Demetris Morant layup with about three minutes left in the first half. Bacon and FSU then began to roll.
The Seminoles made all six of their final shots to go on a 12-5 run and take a 40-36 lead into halftime. Bacon made four of those six shots, including a dunk and back-to-back layups to close out the run.
“Well it’s obvious he’s been our go-to guy all year,” Hamilton said of Bacon, who is a finalist for the Naismith, Wooden and Robertson Awards. “... Our players were aggressively trying to get him the ball in areas where we thought he could give us some offensive productivity.”
Florida Gulf Coast (26-8) countered a pair of Florida State runs and kept within single digits for most of the second half, cutting its deficit to just five points, 82-77, with 33 seconds left.
It was something FGCU, which had not lost a game by double digits since Dec. 13 against Georgia Southern, has done before this season.
“We’ve had games where we looked like we were dead in the water and we came back,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Joe Dooley said.
But the Eagles couldn’t close it out this time. The Seminoles, who shot 55.6 percent from the field, made nine of 14 free throws down the stretch to ice it.
“If we hit our free throws,” Hamilton said, “we don’t have an issue.”
Redshirt junior guard Brandon Goodwin had a game-high 28 points on 12-for-27 shooting for Florida Gulf Coast, which advanced to the Big Dance for the second straight year after winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament title last week. It was his 14th game of the season with at least 20 points.
Redshirt sophomore guard Zach Johnson, a former standout at Miami’s Norland High, chipped in 17 points, four rebounds and five assists in the loss.
FSU now moves on to play in the second round Saturday against No. 11 seed Xavier, which pulled off a 76-65 win over sixth-seeded Maryland earlier in the day.
THIS AND THAT
▪ Florida State, the tallest team in the NCAA Tournament with an average player height of 6-6, outrebounded Florida Gulf Coast 46-26.
▪ Florida Gulf Coast’s Demetris Morant exited the game with 17:19 remaining with a right foot injury. He later returned to the bench wearing a walking boot.
▪ Florida State is now 2-0 all time against FGCU, with both appearances coming in postseason play.