Florida St. rallies to avoid upset against Bonnies
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Florida State beat North Carolina twice this season. Did the same to Duke, too.
But it was Andrew Nicholson and little St. Bonaventure who nearly sent the Seminoles home in their first NCAA tournament game.
Bernard James scored 19 points and Florida State barely avoided a big upset, rallying to beat the 14th-seeded Bonnies 66-63 on Friday.
The third-seeded Seminoles (25-9) shook off a slow start and won their sixth straight game, including their run to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship last week. They will play sixth-seeded Cincinnati, a 65-59 winner over Texas, on Sunday in the third round of the East Regional.
Nicholson scored 20 points and Demetrius Conger had 14 for St. Bonaventure (20-12), which was trying to win an NCAA tournament game for the first time since 1970.
Florida State used a 16-2 run to take its first lead with 5:15 left on a 3-pointer by Ian Miller. The Seminoles led as much as 60-52 on a dunk by Okaro White with 2:47 left.
The Bonnies hit three 3-pointers in the final 1:43 to stay close. They had the ball down by three in the closing seconds but couldn't get a decent look from beyond the arc. Da'Quan Cook had his short jumper blocked by White, and the Seminoles ran out the clock for a huge sigh of relief.
Luke Loucks scored 13 points for Florida State.
This was Florida State's first NCAA tournament game in Nashville since 1989, and that trip didn't end well. The Seminoles lost as a No. 4 seed to Middle Tennessee.
These Seminoles are seasoned and tested, having ended Duke's 45-game home winning streak back in January. They also beat the Blue Devils again on their way to winning their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title.
For St. Bonaventure, the Bonnies had a vocal group of fans down from upstate New York rooting them on along with a monk in the stands.
Nicholson, the senior physics major and NBA prospect, hit his first six shots and four of five from beyond the arc. He also grabbed seven rebounds, trying to put the final piece into the rebuilding of this program that hadn't won a postseason game since the 1995 NIT.
The Bonnies looked ready to pull off the upset after winning their first ever Atlantic 10 tournament title, scoring the first seven points of the game capped by a 3-pointer from Nicholson. They led by as much as 10 in the first half and 34-28 at halftime. They were up 50-44 on a layup by Chris Johnson midway through the second half until they hit a stretch where they missed eight straight shots.
Then the Seminoles showed why they won 15 of their last 18 coming into this tournament.
Florida State's top scorer, junior Michael Snaer, picked up his second foul within the first 3 minutes and didn't score a point for the first time this season. He played only 5 minutes in the first half and missed all seven of his shots, including five beyond the arc.
But James proved more than a match inside for Nicholson. He also grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
White got the final run started for Florida State with a pair of free throws, and James finished off a missed layup by Loucks with a thundering dunk off a steal by Miller to tie it up at 52 for the first time. Miller hit a 3 with 5:15 left to put Florida State ahead to stay. Loucks added a 3, and White dunked to put the Seminoles up 60-52, with the Bonnies seemingly finished.
Then they came back to set up the frenetic finish. Loucks helped seal the win for FSU by hitting three of his four free throws in the final 37.7 seconds.
The Bonnies led by as much as 22-12 on a 3-pointer by Eric Mosley with 10:27 to go in the first half.