Warchant - FSU advances to second round with 86-80 win over Florida Gulf Coast
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FSU advances to second round with 86-80 win over Florida Gulf Coast

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Florida State will move onto the second round where it will face Xavier on Saturday at the Amway Center in Orlando.
Florida State will move onto the second round where it will face Xavier on Saturday at the Amway Center in Orlando. (The Associated Press)

ORLANDO -- There were a few tense moments, but the Florida State men's basketball team never surrendered its second-half lead in an 86-80 win over Florida Gulf Coast in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at the Amway Center.

FSU (26-8) will face Xavier (22-13) in the second round on Saturday. Xavier advanced with a win over Maryland earlier in the day.

The Seminoles never lost their lead, but the Eagles (26-8) came within striking distance a few times. FGCU's strongest chance came when it cut the lead to 64-60 with 9:25 left in the second half.

Seminoles sophomore swingman Dwayne Bacon, who led FSU with 25 points, hit a jumper with 9:07 left, which was the start of his team's 14-5 run. FSU held a 12-point edge for a 75-63 lead with 3:45 left.

FGCU tried to make it interesting late. The Eagles cut the lead to 80-73 with 1:01 left and from there began fouling. Their plan, which was a mix of quick baskets coupled with the Seminoles missing free throws, resulted in the Eagles trailing 82-77 with 31.3 seconds left.

The Eagles quickly fouled Bacon, who made the second of two free throws for an 83-77 lead with less than 30 seconds left. FGCU tried finding an open shot, but too much time came off the clock and freshman forward Jonathan Isaac was fouled with 15.1 seconds left.

Isaac, who scored 16 points, sank both free throws for an 85-77 lead.

FSU's lead appeared safe until FGCU's Rayjon Tucker drew a foul while shooting a 3-pointer with 7.9 seconds left. Tucker hit his first two free throws until the Seminoles called a timeout.

Tucker hit the third free throw and with 7.9 seconds left, the Seminoles held an 85-80 lead. The ensuing, court-length inbounds pass resulted in Xavier Rathan-Mayes going to the free-throw line with 6.1 seconds left. He missed the first but made the second to seal FGCU's fate.

Building the lead was never the issue. Keeping it, however, proved to be problematic for the Seminoles in the first half.

FSU ran into trouble around the seven-minute mark. The Seminoles couldn’t score for five minutes and that allowed the Eagles to go on a 12-0 run to take a 31-28 lead.

Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton called a timeout and Bacon, as the team walked to the bench, told his teammates to “calm down, calm down.”

During the break, Hamilton provided instructions while assistant Charlton Young was busy keeping players upbeat. FSU would find its rhythm and snap its five-minute scoreless streak thanks in large part to Bacon.

Bacon, in tight space, hit a hanging 14-foot jumper to cut the Eagles’ lead to 31-30 with 2:29 remaining in the first half. Back-to-back dunks from Isaac and sophomore center Christ Koumadje gave FSU some needed momentum, but it was Bacon who provided the biggest surge.

The 6-foot-7 swingman brought the entire arena to its feet with a violent dunk with 1:20 left. He was at it again by scoring a lay-up less than 20 seconds later.

His theatrical half had just as dramatic of an ending. Bacon, with two seconds left, found space and drove to the rim to give FSU a 40-36 halftime lead. Bacon entered Thursday averaging 19.2 points in his last four games. He had 16 by the half on 8 of 10 shooting.


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