March 29, 2019 / 4:14 AM / 3 months ago

No. 1 Zags stop Seminoles, advance to Elite 8

Rui Hachimura scored 17 points, Brandon Clarke had a double-double, and top-seeded Gonzaga finished on a big run to turn away Florida State 72-58 Thursday night in a Sweet 16 game in Anaheim, Calif.

March 28, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Josh Perkins (13) moves the ball against Florida State Seminoles guard Anthony Polite (13) during the second half in the semifinals of the west regional of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga will play in the West Region final on Saturday against the winner of No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Texas Tech.

The Bulldogs (33-3) led by 14 in the first half but had trouble putting away the fourth-seeded Seminoles, who were within 60-56 before Zach Norvell Jr. stemmed their momentum by hitting a key 3-point shot with 3:06 to go.

“I thought in the second half, when the game had gotten away from us a little bit, our guys really worked hard and cut the lead down,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “But we just couldn’t seem to hit the open perimeter shots. That seemed to be what made the biggest difference in the game — our inability to hit the wide-open shots.”

Clarke helped subdue the Seminoles (29-8) with two free throws with 2:06 left and a dunk with 1:17 to go. He scored 15 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked five shots.

“He’s been doing that all year. He gives you everything he’s got,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of Clarke. “He’s so coachable, and he’s gotten so much better. He just makes things happen. You don’t have to run plays for him. He just ends up with the ball and he makes thing happen.”

Gonzaga flashed its defense, forcing 14 turnovers and holding Florida State to 39.3 percent shooting (24 of 61).

“I thought we were as tough as nails tonight,” Few said. “I thought we were really in the gaps, making plays, covering for each other, doing a really good job on the glass against that team, which is really, really difficult.”

Florida State guard Trent Forrest was a second-half force, scoring 15 of his 20 points after halftime. Forrest made 8 of 11 shots overall, grabbed five rebounds and dished four assists. No other Seminole scored in double figures.

Hamilton said his team fell a little too far behind, and paid the price.

“We’ve had games when we haven’t performed very well when we’re hesitant from the perimeter,” he said. “I thought their defense had a lot to do with it because they played more of contain defense. We dug a little hole for ourselves in the first half that was hard to overcome. I was proud of my kids for fighting back.”

Florida State’s 7-foot-4 Christ Koumadje was a factor — eight points on 4-of-4 shooting — but couldn’t stay on the court. He picked up his second foul with 17:47 to go in the first half and sat until halftime. His fourth foul came with 14:19 left in the game, and he ended playing only 12 minutes.

Gonzaga avenged a 75-60 loss to Florida State in last year’s Sweet 16.

“They challenged us in every way possible,” Hamilton said. “We got beat by a team that played better than us tonight, that played their system better than we did.”

Norvell and Josh Perkins each contributed 14 points for the Bulldogs.

“They had a lot of offensive talent. We’re just trying to switch things up on them,” Norvell said. “They were really physical. And we wanted to be more physical than them, take the fight to them on offense and defense.”

Perkins scored 10 first-half points, including a three-point play with 0.4 seconds left after his steal and layup, to lead Gonzaga to a 38-27 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs took their biggest lead of the half at 33-19 when Norvell made a 3-point shot with 4:46 left.

Gonzaga has now won 190 consecutive games when leading by at least 11 points at halftime.

Florida State was without fifth-year senior forward Phil Cofer, who was with family in Georgia following the death of his father, Mike Cofer, last Thursday. Cofer averaged 7.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 26.2 minutes per game this season, starting 19 of his 22 games.

—Field Level Media

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