Anthony Polite, defense lead Florida State past Colorado to third straight Sweet 16
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Junkyard Dogs were out in full effect again Monday evening. And they sent the Florida State men's basketball team to another Sweet 16.
In a game where the shots weren't falling consistently and a low-scoring slugfest emerged, FSU's stifling defense led the way.
The fourth-seeded Seminoles (18-6, 11-4 in ACC) held No. 5 seed Colorado (23-9, 14-6 in Pac-12) to 35.7% shooting and forced 19 turnovers, closing out strong to win 71-53 at Indiana Farmers Coliseum.
"I was very proud of our players," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said.
"I thought defensively we gave tremendous effort, and everybody who played on our team I thought made a contribution in some way that gave us a chance to get a very, very important victory
After FSU tied an NCAA Tournament program record allowing just 54 points in its first-round matchup, the team broke that record against CU, allowing just 53 points.
FSU led 36-35 with 11:35 left and closed the game on a 35-18 run from there.
"You can simulate certain things preparing for Florida State, but you cannot simulate their length," Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said.
"They are very long and very athletic. We knew they were going to pressure us...We didn't have a very good shooting night like we did the other night, and Florida State had a lot to do with that. They are a good team. They led the ACC in scoring and they also led it in field goal percentage defense."
With the win, FSU advances to its third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. That's nearly as many as the four the Seminoles had in their entire program history before this run.
FSU's Sweet 16 matchup will be Sunday against No. 1 Michigan (22-4, 14-3 in Big 10) at 5 p.m. at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Buffaloes, meanwhile, are the first Pac-12 team eliminated after the conference won its first eight games in this year's NCAA Tournament.
FSU redshirt junior guard Anthony Polite picked quite the day for a career game. He blew by his previous career-high of 15 points, racking up 22 points. He scored in all phases, making 8 of his 12 shots including four three-pointers.
He also added five rebounds, four steals and four assists.
"It's probably my best game, definitely statistic-wise," Polite said.
"I'm going to keep giving my effort at 100 percent, keep coming out with a defensive mentality. Seeing shots go in is just going to boost my confidence to keep shooting them.
This strong performance helped make up for a day where FSU's three leading scorers this season, M.J. Walker, RaiQuan Gray and Scottie Barnes, got off to a remarkably slow start.
This trio had four total points in the first half, all by Gray. They surged in the second half, finishing with a combined 22 points with none of them scoring in double figures.
Colorado guard D'Shawn Schwartz led the Buffaloes with 13 points.
Turnovers early but not often
FSU's turnover issues loomed large early against the Buffaloes.
It looked like they were going to be a major problem once more when FSU committed seven turnovers in the opening nine minutes and change of Monday's game.
From there, however, there was an immediate and marked improvement in the Seminoles' ball security. FSU turned it over just twice over the remainder of the first half and had just six turnovers in the second half.
After the Seminoles turned it over seven times in the opening 10 minutes, they turned it over just eight times over the final 30.
"We did talk about that in the early time-outs; that we had turned the ball over six times I think in the first few minutes of the game," Hamilton said.
"I thought from that point on that we locked down and concentrated much better and took care of the ball. I thought it really made a big difference in us not giving away extra points."
On the other side of that, FSU had 16 assists. Five of those were by Barnes and three were by Walker.
The Wright stuff
Limiting McKinley Wright IV was clearly one of the Seminoles' keys to victory.
The CU point guard, a three-time All-Pac-12 first-team player, entered Monday averaging 15.4 points and 5.8 assists per game.
A storyline to watch was how FSU's size as the tallest team in the country would affect the 6-foot guard. As it turned out, this paired with FSU's defensive effort made things really hard for Wright.
"We just knew that he was the head of the snake. He is such an outstanding player," Hamilton said.
"He's kind of like a card dealer; everything runs through him. We just wanted to give him as much attention as possible and it took a tremendous effort for our players to do that.
He finished the first half with just four points, no assists and three turnovers. This for a player who entered the game with a 2.83 assist-to-turnover ratio.
It didn't get much better for Wright in the second half as he fell into foul trouble, sitting for an extended period of time. He finished with 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting with one assist and five turnovers.
"They sped us up, man. They did a good job of denying and pressuring us," Wright said.
"I talked to the staff after the game and their game plan was to take me out of the game and keep two on me anytime we inbounded the ball and make somebody else bring it up. Denied me from getting the ball into our action."
FSU finds the range
After FSU was held without a three-pointer in its NCAA Tournament opener against UNC Greensboro, it wasted no time finding its outside range against CU.
The Seminoles' first three made field goals Monday were from outside the arc and they didn't make their first two-point field goal until nearly 10 minutes into the game.
FSU finished shooting 35.3% from three-point range. Polite led the charge with four threes, but Osborne and Wyatt Wilkes each hit one as well.
Colorado, which made 64% of its threes in its first-round win over Georgetown, shot just 24% from outside the arc.
No. 5 seed Florida State vs. No. 1 seed Michigan
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
TV/Radio: CBS/101.5 FM
Reach Curt Weiler at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @CurtMWeiler.
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