Florida Gulf Coast Makes NCAA History as a 15th Seed in Final 16Erik Matuszewski
Florida Gulf Coast University made college basketball history as the first No. 15 regional seed to reach the final 16 at the National Collegiate Athletic Association men’s tournament, where the Eagles are joined by traditional powers Indiana, Kansas and Duke.
Florida Gulf Coast, the 15th of 16 seeded teams in the South region, followed its opening-game upset of No. 2 Georgetown University by beating No. 7 San Diego State 81-71 yesterday in Philadelphia.
Six other schools won NCAA tournament games as a No. 15 regional seed since the field was expanded in 1985. Five of the six had lost their second game by at least 11 points, with Coppin State in 1997 coming the closest to reaching the final 16 with an 82-81 second-round loss against Texas.
“Our goal was to make history and we did it,” Florida Gulf Coast coach Andy Enfield said in a televised interview. “I’m so proud of these fellas.”
The University of Kansas and Indiana University rallied for wins that sent them into the final 16 yesterday, one day after fellow No. 1 regional seed Gonzaga was ousted.
Kansas, the top seed in the South region, erased a nine-point halftime deficit against No. 8 North Carolina and pulled away for a 70-58 victory in Kansas City, Missouri.
Indiana, the No. 1 team in the East, rallied past ninth-seeded Temple University 58-52 by closing the game with a 10-0 scoring run in Dayton, Ohio.
Duke University, the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, joined Louisville, Oregon and Michigan State in the regional semifinals by beating No. 7 Creighton 66-50 last night. It will be the 21st trip to the NCAA tournament’s final 16 for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose Blue Devils play Michigan State.
Ohio State, the second seed in the West, advanced to the round of 16 by beating 10th-seeded Iowa State 78-75 on Aaron Craft’s last-second 3-pointer. The Buckeyes move on to the West regional semifinals with Wichita State, Arizona and La Salle, which advanced as a 13th seed yesterday by beating the University of Mississippi 76-74.
Florida, seeded third in the South, defeated No. 11 Minnesota 78-64 and next faces Florida Gulf Coast, a school of 13,000 students in Fort Myers that held its first class in 1997 and started playing at college basketball’s top level in 2007.
“We tried to scrimmage them in the preseason, so now we get our shot,” Enfield said.
Florida Gulf Coast was led by 23 points from Bernard Thompson, while Sherwood Brown had 17 points and eight rebounds. The lowest-ranked teams to reach the final 16 of the NCAA tournament had been a pair of No. 14 seeds -- Cleveland State in 1986 and Chattanooga in 1997.
Miami, the second seed in the East, made it three Florida schools in the round of 16 with a 63-59 victory over Illinois. The Hurricanes will next face No. 3 Marquette in the East semifinals, while Indiana meets No. 4 Syracuse in the other game in Washington on March 28.
Kansas (31-5) recovered from a first half in which it was held to 21 points while turning the ball over 12 times and making 25 percent of its shot attempts.
Kansas went on a 22-6 surge after halftime, sparked by 10 points from Travis Releford, who finished with a game-high 22 points. Jeff Withey added 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Jayhawks, who outscored North Carolina (25-11) 49-28 during the second half.
Kansas will next face fourth-seeded Michigan, which beat Virginia Commonwealth by 25 points two days ago, on March 29 in Arlington, Texas.
Indiana (29-6) trailed 52-48 with three minutes, nine seconds left before holding Temple scoreless the rest of the way. Victor Oladipo, who led Indiana with 16 points, made a free throw with 1:19 left to give the Hoosiers their first lead of the second half and then hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left for a four-point advantage.
“This was a hard-earned victory that can only make us better,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.
Gonzaga two days ago became the first No. 1 seed ousted with a 76-70 loss to ninth-seeded Wichita State in the West regional. Wichita State next faces No. 12 La Salle on March 28 in Los Angeles, while Ohio State meets No. 6 Arizona.
Ohio State yesterday avoided becoming the latest upset in the West, which had third-seeded New Mexico, No. 4 Kansas State and No. 5 Wisconsin exit during the first full round of play before Gonzaga was beaten by Wichita State.
Craft’s 3-pointer with half a second left pushed the Buckeyes’ winning streak to 10 games and sent them into the tournament’s final 16 for a school-record fourth straight year.
Florida (28-7) outscored Minnesota 48-27 in the first half to advance to the NCAA tournament’s final 16 for the third straight year. They now head to Arlington for a March 29 showdown with FGCU, which is listed as 11 1/2-point underdogs.
“We’re doing something special out here,” said Florida Gulf Coast’s Brown. “We’ve been told that this is what college basketball is all about. We’re really blessed and we’re really happy to be here right now. But we’ve still got a lot more games to play hopefully.”