BUFFALO, N.Y. — Matt Bouldin and the eighth-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs showed Florida State it still has a way to go in its quest to be considered a basketball power.
Bouldin scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half in helping the Bulldogs close out a 67-60 victory over the ninth-seeded Seminoles in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night.
Steven Gray scored 15 points while Robert Sacre added 13 points and nine rebounds for the ’Zags (27-6), who nearly squandered an 18-point lead.
Deividas Dulkys scored 14 points and Solomon Alabi had 13 for the Seminoles (22-10), who didn’t have enough offense to dig themselves out of their big hole.
Opening the second half down 35-19, Florida State started chipping away and eventually cut the lead to 59-54 with 2:21 left when Dulkys banked in a 3-pointer. The Seminoles had a chance to pull closer but Michael Snaer missed two free throws a minute later.
Bouldin pulled down the rebound and the Bulldogs made 8 of 10 free throws to close out the victory in their 12th straight tournament appearance, and 13th overall.
The West Coast Conference powerhouse Bulldogs advanced to Sunday’s second round and will face the winner of the game between top-seeded Syracuse and No. 16 Vermont.
Gonzaga won because it was able to pick apart the Seminoles’ vaunted defense. The Bulldogs went 21 of 42 from the field to end the Seminoles’ string at 67 games of holding opponents to under 50 percent.
Gonzaga bounced back from a dreadful 81-62 loss to Saint Mary’s in the WCC title game on March 8.
Florida State, meanwhile, closed its season losing eight of 17, including a 58-52 loss to North Carolina State in the ACC quarterfinals on March 12.
Friday’s didn’t look like it was going to be much of a nail-biter after the Bulldogs played a near-perfect first half.
After giving up the first basket, Gonzaga opened a 24-9 lead before the game was 12 minutes old and never trailed again.
The Bulldogs were so efficient that by the time they opened a 17-7 lead, every Gonzaga starter had scored at least one basket.
If Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton wanted to use this matchup as a gauge to see how his team stacks up to a perennial power, Florida State has some work to do after being knocked out in the first round in consecutive years.
On the bright side, their second-half surge got the crowd on its feet, especially after Alabi hit two free throws to make it 51-44 with 6:37 remaining.
The first half was a different story as the Bulldogs frustrated the Seminoles at both ends of the court, while their offense patiently worked the ball around to tire Florida State’s defense. By the time Florida State made its way into the offensive end, it was forced into taking poor shots or — by the time the game started getting out of hand — awkward 3-point attempts. Forward Ryan Reid missed all seven attempts in the first half.
It didn’t help that the Seminoles’ other frontcourt presence, Chris Singleton, played only 11 minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul.