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Athletic, deep Florida State upsets Xavier to earn Sweet 16 matchup with Gonzaga

Gonzaga faces Florida State on Thursday in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. The game will tip at approximately 7:07 p.m. (File / SR)
Gonzaga faces Florida State on Thursday in the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. The game will tip at approximately 7:07 p.m. (File / SR)

A surprise obstacle is in Gonzaga’s path to the Elite Eight.

Florida State staged a late rally to knock off top-seeded Xavier 75-70 on Sunday, setting up Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup against No. 4 Gonzaga (32-4) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Tip time will be approximately 7:07 and the game will be televised by TBS.

The ninth-seeded Seminoles (22-11) closed the game on an 18-4 run.

Gonzaga will encounter an athletic FSU team that has size and length, and likes to get out in transition. The Seminoles utilized their bench – 11 players entered the Xavier game in the first eight minutes – which allows them to keep fresh bodies on the court and apply constant pressure defensively. The bench contributed 45 points in Sunday’s win.

FSU, which finished tied for eighth in the ACC with a 9-9 record, wore down Xavier in the closing minutes. The Seminoles broke down Xavier with dribble penetration for several key baskets late in the game.

The Seminoles have a local connection in 6-foot-6 senior guard Braian Angola, who was an NJCAA All-American as a sophomore at North Idaho College. Angola helped NIC to a 54-9 record in his two seasons in Coeur d’Alene.

Angola, who scored 16 points against Xavier, is Florida State’s top perimeter threat. He’s made a team-leading 63 3-pointers and averages 12.8 points. Senior forward Phil Cofer, son of former NFL player Michael Cofer, leads FSU at 13 points per game. He’s made 46 3-pointers and hits nearly 40 percent beyond the arc.

Junior guard Terance Mann, who has been battling a groin injury, contributed 10 points against Xavier. He averages 12.7 points and 5.5 boards.

The Seminoles rank 16th nationally at 5.2 blocks per game, led by 7-footer Ike Obiagu (67), 7-4 Christ Koumadje (34) and 6-9 Mfiondu Kabengele (24).

No. 3 Michigan takes on No. 7 Texas A&M, which upset No. 2 North Carolina 86-65, in Thursday’s first game at 4:37 p.m. The winner takes on the Gonzaga-Florida State winner on Saturday for a spot in the Final Four.


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