The experience of playing big games earlier this season at Illinois and at Michigan State, the Zags said, is what prepared them to handle a furious Florida State comeback Friday night at the HSBC Center.
Tension was high when an 18-point Bulldogs lead shrank to four with 2:21 to play on Deividas Dulkys' banked-in three-pointer from the right wing. It was the eighth straight Seminoles point by the Lithuanian and his third make in a row from three-point range.
"When a shooter like that gets it going, there's not much you can do,'' Gonzaga's Steven Gray said. "I was like, 'He did not just bank in that three.' ''
Oh, yes, he did. But that was when the Seminoles' bid fizzled out. The Zags made eight of 10 foul shots down the stretch to lock up a 67-60 NCAA Tournament West Regional first-round win to advance to a game against the winner of Friday night's Syracuse-Vermont game.
Considering Florida State came in as the top defensive team in the country, Gonzaga coach Mark Few couldn't have been happier with the way his team executed on offense and hit the boards. The Zags (27-6) had a 38-32 rebounding advantage, made 50 percent of their field-goal attempts and held the Seminoles (22-10) to 35.6 percent shooting.
"Somebody in our locker room said nobody shot 50 percent in 72 games on them,'' Few said. "I don't know if that's true, but our guys played with poise and stuck to the plan.''
Matt Bouldin led Gonzaga with 17 points and eight rebounds, Gray had 15 points and the Bulldogs got 13 each from Elias Harris and 7-foot center Robert Sacre, who also had nine rebounds. Dulkys topped FSU with 14 points and 7-1 center Solomon Alabi had 13.
Gonzaga opened the game on a 22-7 run with the aid of seven points from Sacre. The Bulldogs maintained a 35-19 halftime lead and built it to 41-23. But the Seminoles scored on eight straight possessions, including seven points from Chris Singleton, to cut Gonzaga's lead to 48-38.
It was 51-38 when Dulkys began to heat up and went on his tear. After cutting the deficit to four, the Seminoles had a chance to creep closer, but Michael Snaer missed two foul shots with 1:37 left and Florida State had to start fouling.
Although Gonzaga was put in the West Regional, the likelihood was that it would wind up facing top seed Syracuse in round two in Buffalo, which is about a 2 1/2-hour drive away. Few was asked if that's fair.
"I don't know if fair exists out there,'' he said with a smile. "We'll look at it as an opportunity. Last year, we ran into a No. 1 seed. We hope to fare better this year.''