Facing a double-digit deficit, ninth-seeded Florida State bounced back for a 75-70 win over top-seeded Xavier at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Seminoles are now in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2011 and will take on No. 4 seed Gonzaga in Los Angeles on Thursday. It is Leonard Hamilton’s third trip; he led Miami to the regional semifinals in 2000 and took Florida State there in his ninth season in 2011.
After going 4-6 heading into the NCAA Tournament, Florida State has truly taken the phrase “survive and advance” to heart. It is now one of four ACC teams remaining in the tournament, joining Clemson, Duke and Syracuse. Duke will face Syracuse on Friday, while Clemson will take on Kansas.
Here’s what Hamilton said after the Seminoles win:
On the challenges of facing Xavier: “Xavier’s a really, really good basketball team. They’re well coached, they’re extremely talented. They shoot well from the free throw line. They shoot well from the 3. They are extremely physical. They defend, they changed their defenses and they gave us a lot of challenges throughout the game.”
On how his team responded to those challenges: “I think our poise down the stretch and our determined attitude and, obviously, the leadership that Phil [Cofer] and Trent [Forrest] and Terance [Mann] gave us, and even P.J. [Savoy] came and made some big shots for us down the stretch there. Everybody contributed. They have this saying that they’re 18 strong, and I thought each time we came to those moments where we were — there was a timeout, I could hear all of them getting closer and closer together.”
On the group of players this season and how they have grown developed last season: “I think that the challenge that we faced last year obviously was a time of learning and growing. We probably were a lot more talented than we were last year. But the challenges that we had to endure, I thought we gained wisdom from. As a result of the wisdom we had last year, we’re more focused and I thought that pulled us through today because of the wisdom we gained from the challenges we had to overcome last year.”