Saint Bonaventure did not play like a 14 seed. Not for the first 30 minutes, at least.
Florida State escaped the first round of the NCAA Tournament by the skin of their teeth, knocking off the St. Bonaventure Bonnies 66-63 in Nashville. In the winning effort, center Bernard James led the Seminoles with 19 points and nine rebounds.
The first few minutes of the game set the tone for the majority of the afternoon, as the Bonnies rushed out to a 7-0 advantage. Led by NBA prospect forward Andrew Nicholson, SBU forced the Seminoles out of their element, racing ahead on offense and forcing very tough passes out of the Florida State guards. FSU turned the ball over four times before getting their first basket of the game.
FSU junior guard Michael Snaer got into early foul trouble, picking up two fouls in the opening minutes of the game. Head coach Leonard Hamilton would sit Snaer for the rest of the first half, which would prove to be a decision that, while necessary, would choke off a lot of the offense for the Seminoles.
Nicholson would also collect two early fouls, but would continue to play sparingly the rest of the first half. He and Da’Quan Cook would carry the offense to a 34-28 lead at halftime — the pair combined for 20 first-half points while shooting 9-for-12 from the floor.
With Snaer out of the game, guard Ian Miller struggled as well, making just one shot in seven tries through 20 minutes. James led the ‘Noles with eight points in the first half, and guard Luke Loucks surprisingly led the team in rebounds, with six.
FSU changed up their defensive strategy in the second half, making it a priority to cut off Nicholson and force the other Bonnies to beat them. The process of shutting down their star was tedious and didn’t yield immediate results — SBU held the lead for the first 13 minutes of the second half.
As the clock ticked with under 11 minutes left in the ballgame, the Bonnies held on to a six-point lead, 48-42. From there, the switch went on for Florida State.
It started with a 12-0 run to give the Seminoles their first lead of the game. The run lasted for more than five minutes, and by the time the bleeding had stopped, FSU led 60-48 with under three minutes to play.
But St. Bonaventure wasn’t ready to go away, and after a couple of buckets (including a three-pointer by Nicholson that were his first points in about 16 minutes), FSU led by just three.
From there, the teams would trade three-pointers, followed by two clutch free throws from Loucks. The Bonnies kept the game tight with a three-point shot from Demitrius Conger, cutting the deficit to 65-63.
When FSU guard Deividas Dulkys missed a free throw on the next possession, the Bonnies had a chance to rebound the ball and have a shot at a game-winner with 26 seconds left. But forward Okaro White extended an arm to tip the rebound to Loucks, who collected the ball. After drawing a foul, Loucks hit one of two free throws to give the ‘Noles a 66-63 lead.
From there, SBU would miss a couple of short jumpers, not attempting a single necessary three-pointer on the final possession.
The win puts FSU into the Round of 32 for the second consecutive season after exiting the NCAA Tournament in the first round in the two seasons before that. SBU shot just 40 percent from the floor, and that number was brought down considerably during their second-half scoring drought.
They were denied their first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970 by the Seminoles, who shot 45 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 11 times (not bad, considering their four turnovers committed almost immediately as the game started).
Snaer finished the game having not scored a single point. What’s wrong with that when the Seminoles win?
Survive and advance.