BUFFALO, New York--Remember Gonzaga's all-time classic NCAA Tournament collapse against UCLA after having a big lead in the Sweet 16 in Adam Morrison's last year?
It almost happened again.
After being up by as many as 18 points, 8th-seeded Gonzaga (27-6) had to scrap to hold off 9th-seeded Florida State (22-10) late and win their opening NCAA Tournament round game 67-60 at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York.
The Bulldogs advanced to Sunday's second round West Region game on KREM 2 against top-seeded Syracuse. Tip-off time is 9:10 a.m pacific.
Gonzaga's free throw shooting had hurt them all season, but Matt Bouldin and Demetri Goodsoon hit eight of ten free throws in the last 1:21 of the game to chase away the ghosts of UCLA.
Gonzaga established themselves right away in the first half, jumping out to a 9-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game and never looked back the rest of the half.
Florida State shot themselves out of the game throughout the first half, hitting only 21-percent of their shots in the first 20 minutes (6-28) and struggled finding good shots.
The Zags stretched their lead throughout the half, at one point leading by as many as 18, while making 52-percent of their shots (12-23) and went into intermission with a comfortable 35-19 lead while knowing that Florida State never made a decent run at them.
The Bulldogs were led in the first half by Robert Sacre's dominance inside (8 points, 4 rebounds) and the all-around play of Elias Harris (11 points) and Steven Gray (9 points). Bouldin, Gonzaga's leading scorer all season, never found his early offensive rhythm and finished with only three first half points, but grabbed five rebounds.
Bouldin found his rhythm in the first six minutes of the second half, scoring nine points to keep Gonzaga up 16.
The Seminoles then went on a quick 6-0 run as they started taking better shots to close Gonzaga's lead to 46-36 with 13:17 left in the game.
From that point on Gonzaga started tightening up and Seminole guard Deividas Dulkys started heating up.
Dulkys hit three second half three-pointers to lead Florida State back, with his last one coming on a bank shot to cut it to 59-55 with 2:21 to play. Dulkys had 14 points to lead the Seminoles, adding 11 in the second half. Seminole center Solomon Alabi finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
Gonzaga's defense then stepped to make up stops and the Bulldogs hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Bouldin hit five of six free throws late in the game while Goodson, a 48% foul shooter all season, hit three of four to snuff out the Seminole rally.
Bouldin was the game-high scorer with 17 points and also added 8 rebounds. Gray chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds, but struggled taking care of the ball with five turnovers. Sacre finished with 13 points and led Gonzaga on the boards with nine rebounds. Harris only scored two points in the second half to finish with 13 points.
Gonzaga shot 50-percent from the field for the game while FSU shot 35.6-percent.