Florida State’s big men came through in a big-time situation. And the Seminoles advanced to the second round of the Big Dance.
RaiQuan Gray scored 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds while Balsa Koprivica had 13 points and nine rebounds as the Seminoles held off a furious UNC Greensboro comeback for a 64-54 win on Saturday afternoon in an NCAA Tournament first-round game.
FSU (17-6) will play Colorado, which defeated Georgetown 96-73 on Saturday afternoon. A game time and TV for Monday’s game has not been set.
“Last year we didn’t get to participate in this tournament, everyone was shut down,” Gray said. “But we’re playing for the guys that came before us. They set a legacy. We made some runs in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. We’re confident that we have the team and the talent to get to that Final Four and actually get over the hump.”
Gray and Koprivica put the Seminoles on their shoulders. A redshirt junior, Gray shot 8 of 13 from the floor. Koprivica had four turnovers but shot 6 of 10 and missed by a rebound recording a double-double for a third straight postseason game.
The Seminoles shot 25 of 50 (49 percent) from the floor but misfired badly from long range, going 0 for 9.
Anthony Polite had 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting. But M.J. Walker and Scottie Barnes scored just four points apiece (Walker shot 2 of 6, while Barnes shot 2 of 2).
FSU had 15 turnovers, and UNC Greensboro was credited with seven steals.
Isaiah Miller scored 17 points and had five rebounds and four assists for UNCG (21-9). Miller shot 7 of 18 from the floor.
The Spartans shot 19 of 60 (31.7 percent). UNCG was 7 of 27 from the 3-point arc and was well off the mark late as the Spartans couldn’t hit from long range to pull within striking distance one more time vs. the Seminoles. UNCG came into the game averaging 30 percent from 3-point range and finished 25.9 percent on Saturday.
“But I think our defense was what won the game for us today,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “When you’re not shooting real well and you turn the ball over, your defense can carry you in games like this, and this is what happened for us today.”
FSU had a double-digit lead in the first half before UNCG closed the deficit to 29-26 at the half. The Seminoles also built a double-digit lead in the second half — they led 43-31 with 14:11 to go — before UNCG again closed the gap in what was a tight game down the stretch. UNCG’s Miller closed the gap to one, 49-48 with 5:38 to go, but FSU was able to maintain the lead and the Spartans also misfired in the final minutes.
Pain is temporary
Hamilton coached with a walking boot after he hurt his Achilles last Sunday at Greensboro. He was asked after the FSU-UNC Greensboro game about not using a scooter and walking around courtside on Saturday.
“Well, they say pain is temporary,” Hamilton said. “It’s not something that’s going to last all the time. And we have a job to do, and we’re going to work through whatever challenges that we have. I have been injured very few times in my life. We’re in the NCAA Tournament. My guys depend on me. if I’m going to ask them to work hard and challenge themselves, I have to do the same thing to some degree.
“And to be very honest with you, I didn’t even know I had the boot on once the game started.”
Hamilton was also asked if he needed to have surgery and said he would discuss it with doctors when the Seminoles get back to Tallahassee.
FSU postseason history
The Seminoles have a 22-17 overall record in NCAA Tournament play. FSU recently made a run to the Elite Eight in 2018 and the Sweet 16 in 2019. A win over Colorado would give FSU a seventh trip to the Sweet 16 in program history.
Up and down in ACC
Syracuse was the only ACC team to win on Friday as the league went 1-4. The Seminoles picked up a win Saturday afternoon, with Virginia to play Ohio later Saturday night.
For the FSU-UNC Greensboro box score, click here.