The Seminoles (25-10) expected yet another grind-it-out, possession-for-possession, defensive battle on March 18 against Cincinnati.
They wouldn't have it any other way. All except for the ending.
In a matchup of two teams with defense-first mentalities, the Bearcats outwilled and out-shot Florida State in the final two minutes to advance with a 62-46 victory at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. The game did not start until nearly 10:00 p.m. Eastern as the last game of the first week of the NCAA Tournament.
"I know they're going to be physical, scrappy, tough," said FSU guard Michael Snaer before the game. "We all know what we need to do, and as long as we stay locked in offensively and defensively, we'll be fine."
Problem was, the Seminoles failed to take care of the ball well enough when they had it. Senior Luke Loucks made a lazy pass with the game tied that Cincinnati turned into a basket in the final 90 seconds, then committed a traveling call when he thought he got hit in the head while trapped near the Seminoles' bench. The combination of those two miscues forced FSU to foul, and Cincinnati -- not a good free-throw shooting team in the regular season -- knocked down its free throws to seal the game.
It ruined what had been a great game for Loucks, who led all FSU scorers with 14 points and four assists. But the four turnovers, including those final two, doomed him and the team.
It broke a trend for the Seminoles.
All season, FSU has proven successful in winning close games and winning final possession games. The Seminoles were hoping that trend would continue in seeking their first back-to-back Sweet 16 trips in 19 years.
But it wasn't to be. Ultimately, FSU's 17 turnovers and 35-percent shooting ended the Seminoles' hopes.
The game completed a wild weekend in the NCAA Tournament, when plenty of higher-seeded teams were upset in the opening two days.
FSU coach Leonard Hamilton believes it's part of the normal course of fate in college basketball these days.
"I think anything is capable of happening when you get two basketball teams together," he said. "That's the way college basketball is, especially when you get to NCAA Tournament, when teams have started out, improved, worked hard. They got the system in place, the kids are playing with good chemistry, and sometimes it's just a team can just get on fire just because of that mental edge that they have and play better. I'm not wanting to buy into the fact that there's anything unusual about these upsets. Just think it's good basketball being played."
Cincy made plays late, 'Noles didn't
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