LOS ANGELES, Calif (Seminoles.com) — Terance Mann had a plan.
He saw Phil Cofer streaking up his right on a fast break. As Mann spun toward of the middle of the lane, he was going to flick a no-look pass over his head to Cofer for a monster slam.
In March, things don’t always go as planned. Mann’s pass certainly didn’t. Him being saddled by a groin injury the opening weekend wasn’t expected either. But NCAA tournament fortune favors those that can quickly adjust.
Mann was stripped as he spun, losing the ball as he brought it up to pass, but serendipitously the ball deflected off the defender and back to Mann.
It wasn’t how he drew it up, but Mann knew exactly what to do. The junior guard attacked the rim and scored his final field goal of the game with 4:21 remaining. He carried a big smile down the court.
“It didn’t go how I wanted it to go and I still got a bucket. It was just funny,” Mann said. He was smiling wider just seconds later when he Mann corralled a steal and immediately looked up court to start a fast break that concluded with a thunderous dunk by Cofer.
It was a two-bucket sequence highlighting a 12-4 run by the Seminoles as they pulled away from No. 4 seed Gonzaga for a 75-60 win in the Sweet 16 Thursday evening at Staples Center.
Ralph Lawler, the voice of the L.A. Clippers, often yells “Oh me, oh my!” after big plays at Staples Center. On this night, he would have been screaming “Oh Mann…Oh Mann!” Mann finished with 18 points on 8 for 13 shooting to lead a Seminole attack that featured 11 players scoring, but only Mann finishing in double digits.
“It feels great,” guard Trent Forrest said. “We’re a team that from the beginning of the season, we knew we could make it as far as we wanted to.”
And now they are heading to the Elite Eight behind a well-balanced effort on both ends of the court.
“We’re a team that operates with the philosophy that we have to win games by committee. This has been our philosophy for a number of years,” head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Our guys feel that’s the best way for us to operate, and they’re all able to contribute offensively and defensively because of that philosophy.”
It took a team effort on both sides of the floor for the Seminoles (23-11) to advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in school history and the first since 1993. They will face Michigan Saturday at 8:50 p.m. EST after the Wolverines beat Texas A&M 99-72.
Florida State had nine blocks and eight steals and were able to score 16 points off turnovers. The Seminole defense held Gonzaga to a season-low 60 points and 33.9 percent shooting, including a 5 for 20 performance on three-pointers.
Gonzaga finishes the year 32-5 after struggling to get NCAA tournament breakout star Zach Norvell Jr. going until it was too late. After scoring 43 points in Gonzaga’s first two tournament games, he started the game 2 for 13 from the floor. Norvell finished with 14 points after hitting two late shots, but it was too little too late. The Bulldogs were led by Rui Hachimura’s 16 points.
It was a game of runs beginning with an action-filled back-and-forth first half.
After a slow start in the first four minutes, Florida State jumped out to 16-6 lead with an 11-0 run behind Trent Forrest stimulating the offense. He found PJ Savoy on the secondary break for a three-pointer from the top of the key that fired up the 19 friends and family Savoy had in attendance supporting him. Forrest also picked up a steal and transition bucket and set up an alley-oop dunk by Ike Obiagu a possession after nabbing another steal.
“Getting in passing lanes, getting a few steals, deflections and just finding Terance and Brian and Phil when they were in their best spots to score the ball,” Forrest said nonchalantly after finishing with seven points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals and only one turnover. Once again, the Seminoles were at their best with him on the floor, finishing with a +23 advantage when Forrest was playing.
Gonzaga quickly responded with a run of its own soon after Forrest subbed out of the game. The Bulldogs continually attacked the paint getting Christ Koumadje, Mfiondu Kabengele and later Braian Angola, Ike Obiagu and Phil Cofer all in early foul trouble. The first 12 points of a 15-0 run came in the paint or from the free throw line. It took a four-on-one fast break for Florida State to snap Gonzaga’s streak as the Seminoles struggled to adjust to the Bulldogs’ zone defense.
Having to use a small lineup, Florida State unsuccessfully tried to shoot Gonzaga out of the zone. But it found success in the final five minutes of the half by moving the ball quicker. They started to find some soft spots with Forrest being able to get the ball at the high post where he could turn and attack the heart of the defense. Once they started getting in the lane, the Seminoles were able to get some open looks from outside finished the half on a 13-3 run to take a 31-32 lead at the break.
Florida State held Silas Melson and Zach Norvell Jr. to a combined 4-for-14 shooting and seven points in the first half, but the forward combo of Jonathan Williams and Hachimura carried the load for the Bulldogs early. Hachimura, who started in place of Killian Tillie after Tillie re-aggravated a hip injury before the game, gave the Seminoles fits with his ability to attack the offensive glass, grabbing three offensive rebounds in the first half and five of Gonzaga’s 14 on the night.
The second half featured an early 8-0 Gonzaga run to cut Florida State’s lead to five points, but the Bulldogs could never get closer than four and with 8:08 remaining, the Seminoles began to pull away. The 12-4 run started a 22-11 finish that sends the Seminoles onto the next round, just as planned.