HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — 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 top-seeded 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 cross-over 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 a few 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.
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.
Murray State: The Racers will face life without Ja Morant.
Florida State: The Seminoles could see an NCAA rematch with Gonzaga. Florida State eliminated the Zags in the regional semifinal last year