NASHVILLE, TN — Ninth-seeded Florida State has lots of guys who can score, and the Seminoles used that depth to win their fourth straight NCAA Tournament opener.
Or as coach Leonard Hamilton calls it, a team effort.
Mfiondu Kabengele scored 14 points, and Florida State beat No. 8 seed Missouri 67-54 on Friday night in the West Region.
Florida State (21-11) will play No. 1 seed Xavier in the second round on Sunday.
“All season our identity was the quality of our depth,” Kabengele said. “We knew they were a little short on the bench, so we needed to attack them, get them in foul trouble, minimize their bench and stay aggressive. We used that to our advantage.”
This was the first trip to the tournament for every player on the roster for Missouri (20-13). Even with new players and a new coach in Cuonzo Martin, the Tigers head home from their first NCAA appearance since 2013 with the program’s fourth straight loss in a first round.
“We didn’t get into a flow like we needed to,” Martin said. “Give them a lot of credit for pressing us, getting out in the passing lanes, forcing us to make extra plays.”
Kassius Robertson had 19 points for Missouri. Michael Porter Jr. scored 16 in what might be his final college game, with 13 coming after halftime. Missouri never got closer than six in the second half before the Seminoles sealed the win with 15 straight points.
The Tigers started well enough as Robertson opened the game with a 3-pointer, and Missouri scored seven of the first eight points.
That’s when Florida State woke up.
Cofer scored on a tip-in, starting an 11-0 run capped by Savoy’s 3-pointer. That wound up as part of a 20-4 spurt capped by a 3-pointer from Braian Angolamidway through the half. Florida State went into the break up 42-20, and all 10 Seminoles who played scored.
This was just the third game this season for Porter, the possible NBA lottery pick who sustained a back injury in Missouri’s season opener. Even with another week of practice since the Southeastern Conference Tournament, he looked rusty. Porter had the ball stolen from him with 7:55 left in the first half and followed that up just over a minute later with an airball on a jumper.
The Tigers pulled to 52-44 on a pair of free throws by Porter as Missouri opened the second half by outscoring Florida State 24-8.
Cofer hit two of three free throws to start a 15-0 spurt that pushed the lead back to double digits. By the time Missouri scored again, Jontay Porter‘s jumper with 5:08 left only pulled the Tigers to 65-46.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” Savoy said. “We just kept our poise, amped our energy up on the defensive end and it created our offense.”
Florida State: The Seminoles came in having lost three of four. But they came in as the ACC’s third-highest scoring team, averaging 81.8 points a game, and they showed off their offense against Missouri points.
Missouri: The Tigers will never know how much having their second-leading scorer might have helped. Jordan Barnett was suspended from Missouri’s first-round game after being arrested for driving while intoxicated last week . The senior guard was averaging 13.7 points per game.
Porter is considered a likely lottery pick, possibly even top five for the NBA draft in June. The freshman and preseason All-American said he probably won’t make his decision on what’s next for a little while. “I’ll just talk to the people close to me,” Porter said. “I’ve got to do what’s best for me. I’ve got to get my body right, and just keep going forward step by step.”
His coach said he knows Porter will be a better player a month from now.
“That’s just what it is, when you’re coming off of injuries, getting the rust off your body, getting the flow of games, getting the flow of situations,” Martin said.
Florida State: Will play Xavier for a trip to the Sweet 16.
Missouri: Waiting to see what Porter decides.
You can read this article at its original location here.