– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
HARTFORD, Conn. — While it was a given that the Florida State men’s basketball team would consume hours of footage of the man who, just 48 hours prior, became the “it” player of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament in preparation for Saturday’s contest, at least one Seminole made some extra time to watch highlights of the man whose son became one of his teammates to draw extra inspiration to carry Florida State to another Sweet 16 appearance.
Forwards Mfiondu Kabengele and Terance Mann, the two leading scorers on the season for the Seminoles, combined for 40 points and made 17 of their 23 shots between them in leading fourth-seeded Florida State to a dominant 90-62 victory over first-round darling Murray State, the No. 12 seed in the West Region, to advance to its second consecutive Sweet 16 appearance.
In a repeat of last season, the Seminoles will play a top-seeded Gonzaga team in southern California, this time at the Honda Center in Anaheim. In 2018, Florida State, then a No. 9 seed in the West Region, defeated the No. 1 seed Bulldogs in Los Angeles to advance to the Sweet 16.
Along with his offense, Mann drew the defensive assignment of trying to stop Ja Morant, the Racers’ dynamic point guard who produced the 17th triple-double in NCAA Tournament history in Murray State’s win over Marquette on Thursday. Along with studying up on Morant, Mann also decided to get a better idea of the playing style of former NFL linebacker Mike Cofer, the father of one of Mann’s teammates, Phil Cofer. Immediately after Florida State’s win over Vermont on Thursday, Phil Cofer received the news inside the locker room that his father had passed away due to an undisclosed illness at the age of 58.
“What I did the night before was Google and YouTube Mike Cofer, my teammate’s father who passed and just saw how hard he played, how much fight he gave on the field, and I just wanted to bring that with me,” Mann said. “And I feel like that’s what I did today. I played my heart out for that.”
After Morant scored 10 points in the game’s first 4:44, including knocking down three 3-pointers, to give the Racers a 14-7 lead, the Seminoles went on a 15-4 run, capped off by a Devin Vassell 3-pointer for a 22-18 lead. Florida State did not relinquish the lead after that, taking its biggest lead of the half on a Mann dunk with 42 seconds remaining for a 50-34 lead, which ended up being the score heading into intermission.
“I thought our guys really locked in. They gave all of the attention to detail. I thought we moved the ball,” said Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton. “I thought we — obviously, we had to stop them in transition. I thought we did a decent job of that, but we came to the conclusion that Morant was almost basically unguardable. So we had to make sure we defended the other guys that fed off of him. And we worked hard and made him earn all his baskets.”
Morant scored 18 of his 28 points in the first half, including five 3-pointers. While Morant was 5-for-6 from three for the game, the Seminoles held him to just 3-for-15 shooting from inside the arc and also held him to just four assists, 12 fewer than the assist total he had against Marquette on Thursday.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday’s games, with all photos taken by ALOST senior photographer Robert Cole. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are currently 40 pictures in total.