March 19, 2012
By: Brandon Mellor, Seminoles.com Senior Writer
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — It took 19 lead changes to decide a winner but in the end, No. 10 Florida State’s record-breaking 2011-12 season came to its hard-fought end in a 62-56 late-night loss to Cincinnati.
Riding a six-game winning streak and boasting the first Atlantic Coast Conference Championship in school history, third-seeded FSU (24-10) simply couldn’t handle the Bearcats’ defensive pressure and ability to strip the ball.
Sixth-seeded Cincinnati (26-10) advanced to the Sweet 16 in large part because it forced 17 turnovers and scored 19 points off those takeaways.
“We had in the scouting report that they were what you would call a tremendous ‘strip team,'” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought they got a lot of deflections that led to baskets. Most of the time when you turn the ball over it’s dead-ball situations.”
Luke Loucks led the ‘Noles in scoring in his final game with 14 points along with four assists. Fellow senior Bernard James added 12 points and three blocks, which made him the fist player in FSU history to register at least 80 blocks in consecutive seasons.
After not scoring in the Seminoles’ 66-63 second-round win over St. Bonaventure Friday in Nashville, Tenn., junior Michael Snaer scored 11 points but only two of those occurred in the second half.
For the Bearcats, Sean Kilpatrick led all scorers with 18 points and Dion Dix scored 15. Yancy Gates scored 10 points for a Big East runner-up team that shot 19-of-50 from the floor — a shooting mark that was identical to that of the ‘Noles.
Snaer’s running one-handed shot put FSU on top 43-41 after Gates had scored three on an and-one opportunity late in the second half.
After Kilpatrick and Loucks traded 3-pointers, Kilpatrick hit another long-range shot to give the Bearcats a 49-46 advantage. After a James dunk and Loucks free throws pushed the score to 50-49, the Bearcats generated what was their largest lead of the night on a 5-0 run.
Down 54-50 with 48.8 seconds left, FSU forced a turnover and potential momentum swing but sophomore Okaro White missed on a 3-point attempt and James picked up a foul on the offensive rebound attempt.
Following two Gates free throws, James added another dunk to trim the Seminoles’ deficit to 56-52 with 28.9 seconds left.
But it proved to too little too late as the Bearcats made all eight of their free-throw attempts in the final 35 seconds.
“It’s tough to go out like that but they are a great team,” Snaer said.
It didn’t take Snaer very long to bounce back from his first-game struggles. The junior hit three first-half 3-ponters for nine early points but the Seminoles as a team shot just 9-of-26 from the floor.
Cincinnati wasn’t much better, shooting 8-for-29 but the Bearcats also added 11 fast-break points and made the most of FSU’s 10 opening-period turnovers. Despite those numbers, the Seminoles took a 26-25 lead into halftime.