FSU coach Leonard Hamilton remained stoic on the sideline even as Xavier sank three-point baskets and his offense saw shots spin in and out of the rim.
But as the final buzzer sounded and his No. 3 seed Florida State team left the court of Orlando’s Amway Center with a 91-66 loss to 11th-seeded Xavier, his players were dejected as they walked off the court.
After a 20-2 start to the season and second-place finish in the Atlantic Coastal Conference, Florida State’s first NCAA Tournament since 2012 ended after just two games and with its largest margin of defeat this season. Xavier, meanwhile, advanced to the Sweet 16 next weekend in San Jose, California, and celebrated with fans on the opposite side of the court and closed out the game with its four walk-ons on the court for the final minute.
Put simply, poor defense along the perimeter doomed the Seminoles.
Xavier (23-12) went 11-of-17 from three-point range and shot 55.6 percent from the field overall. Five Xavier players scored in double figures, with Trevon Bluiett leading the the charge with a game-high 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
After FSU took an early 5-4 lead, Xavier went on a 21-5 run to take a 25-10 lead. Florida State went went 2-10 from the field in that span and turned the ball over twice times while failing to figure out Xavier’s zone defense. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton substituted players in and out almost like a carousel, with a dozen players checking into the game within the first 12 minutes of regulation.
The Seminoles (26-9) cut Xavier’s lead to just four points thanks to a mini run fueled by Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Dwayne Bacon before Musketeers guard J.P. Macura drained a corner 3 to help Xavier outscore the Seminoles 14-8 down the stretch and take a 44-34 lead into halftime.
The teams proceeded to trade buckets early in the second half before another FSU shooting drought -- this one lasting more than seven minutes -- allowed Xavier to extend its lead to a game-high 22 points with just under nine minutes left in regulation.
The Seminoles were playing for pride from there.
Bacon scored a team-high 20 points and Rathan-Mayes added 16 for FSU, which made 40 percent of its shots from the field but was just 4-for-21 from three-point range.
The loss marks the end of the road for Florida State’s two seniors in forward Jarquez Smith and center Michael Ojo. It also likely marked the end of the road for freshman Jonathan Isaac and sophomore guard Dwayne Bacon, both of whom are expected to declare for the NBA Draft. Isaac was a force for the Seminoles since the postseason began, averaging 10.25 points and corralling 45 total rebounds in four total ACC and NCAA tournament games.
Bacon, a finalist for three national player of the year awards and FSU’s leading scorer this season (17.2 points per game), scored at least 10 points in all but one of the Seminoles’ 35 games this season.
THIS AND THAT
Saturday was just the second all-time meeting between Florida State and Xavier, with the first coming on Feb. 4, 1958. Xavier won that game 76-60.