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Sweet 16: Polite has career night in FSU’s win

A game that often was lacking in sweetness ended up with a result Florida State could savor: The Seminoles are in the Sweet 16.

Anthony Polite scored a career-best 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the floor and FSU’s defense was stingy throughout as the Seminoles defeated Colorado 71-53 on Monday night. Colorado shot just 36.4 percent from the floor, and the Buffaloes’ 20 first-half points was the fewest the Seminoles had allowed in a half this season.

“Tonight I thought our players were locked in with our defensive game plan,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We had to be locked in, not foul, contest shots … They challenged all of our defensive principles. I was very proud of our players.”

FSU (18-6) joins Syracuse as the two ACC teams in the round of 16. This is FSU’s fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in the Leonard Hamilton Era (2010, ‘18, ‘19 and ’21) with the 2018 team making a run to the Elite Eight.

The Seminoles will play No. 1 seed Michigan on Sunday at 5 p.m. (CBS).

There were often doubts about this season’s Seminoles, beginning in the offseason with the loss of lottery picks Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell as well as floor leader. The start was sluggish but FSU played well through two COVID pauses and extended its ACC home win streak. Could the Seminoles win away from Tallahassee? The answer at points was “no” but the Seminoles brought defensive intensity in their first two NCAA Tournament games in Indiana.

And seemingly on any given night, it could be any Seminole who was the star. That was again the case on Monday when it was Polite, a redshirt junior who made 4 of 7 3-pointers, had five rebounds and four assists.

“Anthony is one of the better on-the-ball-defenders that we’ve had at Florida State,” Hamilton said. “He’s really grown and matured. Now you just see him coming into his own.”

While Polite’s stats on the offensive end will be what most will notice, it was his all-around effort that helped the Seminoles advance.

“That’s probably my best game, definitely, statistic-wise,” Polite said “… Defense first, that’s what got us here. That’s what is going to keep making us win.”

Polite made up for some sluggish offensive games (early on) from M.J. Walker and Scottie Barnes, although they contributed with defense and assists.

Barnes had just four points but delivered five assists (with three turnovers) while Walker had seven points, three rebounds and three assists (he also took a few charges on the defensive end).

Malik Osborne also had 11 points off the bench. RaiQuan Gray had nine points and six rebounds for the Seminoles, who were a red-hot 15 of 24 (62.5 percent) from the floor in the second half.

FSU shot 24 of 46 (52 percent) from the floor, 6 of 17 (35.3 percent) from 3-point range and 17 of 21 (81 percent) from the free-throw line. 

The Seminoles also held Colorado star point guard McKinley Wright to 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting with one assist and five turnovers. D’Shawn Schwartz had 13 points and six rebounds for the Buffaloes (23-9).

BOX SCORE

The FSU-Colorado box score can be viewed here.

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