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March 20, 2011
FSU dominates Irish, heading to Sweet 16
CHICAGO - Nobody saw this coming. Not Florida State. Certainly not Notre Dame. Not even Nostradamus on his best days.
Tenth-seeded Florida State not only upset No. 2 seed and No. 5 ranked Notre Dame, but dominated in shocking fashion, rolling to a 71-57 rout that was more lopsided than the score indicates in the NCAA Tournament's final game in the round of 32 on Sunday night at a nearly full United Center.
FSU advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the days of Charlie Ward and Sam Cassell in 1993 and will face No. 11 VCU, which rolled to a shockingly easy 94-76 rout of No. 3 Purdue earlier in the night. The two unlikely Sweet 16 opponents will match up in San Antonio on Friday night at approximately 9:57 pm (ET).
"I really didn't expect to dominate them like this, not the No. 5 ranked team in the country," said FSU guard Derwin Kitchen, the team's lone senior. "I expected it to be a really good game, but we took care of business … I didn't dream anything like this. It sure feels good to make the Sweet 16 in my senior year."
FSU, which had four players score in double figures and got a double-double from Bernard James (team-high 14 points and 10 rebounds), beat Notre Dame at its own game. The Seminoles made 9 of 19 3-pointers (47.4 percent) while holding the normally deadly shooting Irish to 7 of 30 from beyond the arc (23.3 percent).
The Irish came in shooting 39 percent as a team from 3-point range while FSU didn't have a single player shooting that high a figure.
"When our guys take good shots they are good shooters," FSU assistant coach Stan Jones said. "Sometimes they get sped up too much or get thinking too much. But, tonight they really got into a rhythm and shot like they do in practice. (Notre Dame) missed some shots they normally make in their league maybe because they were playing from behind."
Notre Dame was playing from behind nearly the entire game. The Seminoles used a 20-9 run to power their way to a 34-23 lead at the half. The Seminoles opened up the second half with a 18-6 run to go up 52-29 with 13 minutes remaining. The Irish never managed to cut the deficit to lower than 12 points.
"Coach (Leonard Hamilton) told us if we get a big enough lead on this type of team they don't do well coming from behind," Kitchen said. "You could hear (the Notre Dame players) out there arguing with each other in the first half. When we kept the momentum going you could still hear them arguing with each other."
The key stretch came after Eric Atkins layup cut FSU's lead to 14-11. The Seminoles answered with three straight 3-pointers - including one taken in the corner by Ian Miller that banked off the glass and another from Luke Loucks that dropped in after bouncing high off the rim - for a 9-0 run that put FSU up 23-11.
Notre Dame star guard Ben Hansbrough finished with 18 points, but 12 of those came in the second half with the game out of reach, and fouled out in the final minutes. Hansbrough rarely had an open shot and struggled to penetrate and create offense thanks largely to defensive stopper Michael Snaer, who stayed glued to the senior's side.
Snaer was also a force on the offensive end, going 3-of-4 from 3-point range, finishing with 13 points and dishing out four assists.
Kitchen and freshman Okaro White (6-of-7 from free throw line) scored 10 apiece.