FSU chops Texas A&M 57-50
Seminoles advance in NCAA tournament for first time since '98
CHICAGO -- Florida State had just knocked off Texas A&M for its first NCAA tournament win in 13 years, and one thought crossed Derwin Kitchen’s mind.
Don’t stop now.
“It feels pretty good, but we’re not satisfied with the win,” Kitchen said. “We want to try and keep playing as long as possible.”
Kitchen scored 15 points, and the 10th-seeded Seminoles moved on in the tournament for the first time since 1998 with a 57-50 victory against the seventh-seeded Aggies in the second round on Friday.
Bernard James added 10 points and three blocks, keying a go-ahead run in the second half, and the Seminoles (22-10) advanced even though star Chris Singleton struggled in his return from a broken right foot, finishing with five points and four fouls.
The nation’s leader in field-goal defense, they held Texas A&M (24-9) to 31.4-percent shooting on the way to their first NCAA win since they beat TCU in the first round in 1998. The Seminoles had dropped three consecutive NCAA games, losing to Wisconsin in overtime in 2009 and Gonzaga last season.
Now, they can start a different kind of streak.
If they beat Notre Dame on Sunday, they’ll head to San Antonio for the next round in the Southwest Regional, with the Final Four in Houston.
“I’m not trying to stay right here and have this be my glory part of the year,” Singleton said. “I’m trying to get past Notre Dame and trying to go all the way, as far as we can.”
Khris Middleton scored 16 for Texas A&M -- 11 in the first half. Nathan Walkup added 11, David Loubeau scored 10, but a team that was hoping to two-step its way to tournament games in Texas can forget about that.
“I think we weren’t being aggressive, got caught up in the moment, too excited and rushing every shot,” Loubeau said.
So a season in which they exceeded expectations and reached their sixth consecutive NCAA tournament screeched to a halt.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment we were in this tournament,” Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon said. “We earned it. I even thought we earned a little bit of a higher seed; we didn’t play like that today. Finished third in our league, a good league, won a lot of close games, executed, showed a lot of toughness. One of our keys today was little things leading to big things. We just made so many little mistakes defensively in that stretch.”
Florida State got going early in the second half, erasing a 31-23 deficit with a 13-0 run in which James scored eight in a row.
“He wasn’t following the game plan in the first half,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I didn’t think he did a very good job of running the floor, he didn’t do a very good job of posting up strong. I didn’t think he was doing what we needed him to do. We challenged him at halftime, along with our other guys, just to be a lot more aggressive inside.”
James said Hamilton “called our character into question.”
“He just emphasized on the point that we acted like we really didn’t want it,” James said. “All the work that we had done was leading up to this game and we were being nonchalant about it and acting like we didn’t want to play. Everyone took that to heart and we went back out and gave it some.”
Particularly James during that run.
The 6-foot-10 junior converted a put-back after the Kitchen nailed a 3, then dunked off a nice feed from Ian Miller to pull the Seminoles within one.
He scored down low to give Florida State the lead after blocking Kourtney Roberson and scored again just over seven minutes into the half to make it 34-31.
Michael Snaer added a floater to make it a five-point game before Loubeau followed his own miss with a basket that broke about a 6 1/2 -minute drought for Texas A&M.
It was 42-40 after Walkup hit a 3 with about 7:10 left when Singleton nailed one of his own from the left corner.
Kitchen made it 48-40 when he drove by Naji Hibbert for a three-point play with 4:49 left, and the Seminoles remained in control the rest of the way.
Singleton’s return gave them a boost, no matter what the stats said. Hamilton was reluctant to use him at all even though doctors cleared him, but he wound up playing 16 minutes.
“I was uncomfortable with whatever level of risk we were taking,” Hamilton said.
But he saw the work Singleton put in rehabilitating the injury and decided to let him play a few hours before tipoff. He checked in with 7:35 left in the first half after a 9-0 run by the Aggies.
A small contingent of FSU fans cheered when he replaced Okaro White after the freshman hit two free throws that momentarily put Florida State back on top 14-12. About 2 1/2 minutes later, Singleton hit his first shot -- a mid-range jumper.
Otherwise, it was a quiet start for the Seminoles star.
The jumper was his lone basket of the half and he quickly picked up three fouls in his first appearance since he was injured against Virginia on Feb. 12. He had surgery two days later, and the Seminoles split the six games in his absence leading up to the NCAA tournament.
Now, they’re moving on.