Florida teams in the tour­na­ment,

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Sports - By Ralph D. Russo

HART­FORD, Conn. — Ja Mo­rant daz­zled for a half, but the star point guard and

12th-seeded Mur­ray State got run out of the NCAA Tour­na­ment by Florida State.

Mfiondu Kaben­gele scored 22 points, Ter­rance Mann added 18 points and the Semi­noles slammed the Rac­ers 90-62 Sat­ur­day to ad­vance to the West re­gional semi­fi­nal.

With Florida State for­ward Phil Cofer watch­ing from the bench just two days af­ter his fa­ther died, the Semi­noles made good on a vow to honor their team­mate and his fam­ily with their play. They couldn’t have been much bet­ter, over­whelm­ing the Rac­ers (28-5) with their size, speed and depth.

Florida State (29-7) is in the Sweet 16 for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year, the first time FSU has pulled that off since 1992-93, where they will face ei­ther topseeded Gon­zaga or Bay­lor.

Mo­rant was the story of the first-round, post­ing a triple-dou­ble against Mar­quette that even had NBA stars Steph Curry and Luka Don­cic mar­veling at the sure-fire lot­tery pick. He again had the Mur­ray State fans on their feet early against Florida State. Mo­rant was 5 for 5 from

3-point range in the first half, flash­ing his step-back and cross­over jumpers. Florida State was win­ning ev­ery­where else on the court, forc­ing turnovers, get­ting into tran­si­tion and knock­ing down 3s.

The Semi­noles came into the game shoot­ing 33.4 per­cent from

3 223rd in the na­tion — and then hit eight of their first 11 from be­hind the arc. Known for their de­fense, the Semi­noles were play­ing fast and get­ting good shots. Florida State had a 16-point lead at the half and it didn’t get much bet­ter af­ter the break.

Christ Koumadje had two easy slams off lobs, Mann tipped in his own miss and Kaben­gele slammed home an­other re­bound to make it 68-46 with 13 min­utes left.

Mo­rant pro­vided more high­lights, most notably go­ing right at the 7-foot-4 Koumadje and flip­ping in a layup while get­ting fouled. Oth­er­wise it was all Florida State. With about 2 min­utes left, Mo­rant drove through three de­fend­ers down the lane for a layup that gave him 28 points.

Mo­ments later he de­parted to a stand­ing ova­tion from the Rac­ers fans, likely done with his col­lege ca­reer.

He was the last Mur­ray State player to walk off the court af­ter the fi­nal horn sounded, clap­ping his hands and then get­ting a pat on the back from coach Matt McMa­hon. The Rac­ers won 12 straight games to get this far, but have still have never won more than one game in any of their 17 NCAA ap­pear­ances.

Big pic­ture

Mur­ray State: Mo­rant had only four as­sists, one in the sec­ond half, af­ter get­ting 16 against Mar­quette. The Semi­noles forced the other Rac­ers to make plays and they couldn’t de­liver.

Florida State: The Semi­noles have won eight of nine and are 16-2 since late Jan­uary.

Up next

Mur­ray State: The Rac­ers will face life with­out Ja Mo­rant.

Florida State: The Semi­noles could see an NCAA re­match with Gon­zaga.


Florida State’s Mfiondu Kaben­gele (25) dunks over Mur­ray State’s Ja Mo­rant (12) dur­ing the sec­ond half Sat­ur­day.

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