ATLANTA – There is still a network that needs to be shortened. And on Monday evening, the Florida men’s basketball team has the opportunity to climb a ladder and take it.
Patrick Williams and Devin Vassell scored 46 points together, RaiQuan Gray hit the largest 3-pointer of his life, and Dominic Olejniczak added the largest block of his when Saturday’s seminars in Atlanta, 81-77, angered Atlanta’s first overall seed.
“Kansas? More like CAN’T-sas,” said Redshirt student Wyatt Wilkes in the victorious FSU changing room. “I mean, they were a good team. Don’t get me wrong. They made us work. But we had Devin and Patrick and they didn’t. So we go to the ship and they go back to Topeka or wherever these School is. “
The state of Florida will play against Louisville, a 71-62 winner over Gonzaga, for the national championship Monday night. The Seminoles defeated the cardinals both times when they played during the regular season.
“They say it’s hard to beat a good team three times in one season,” said Williams, who also had eight rebounds and three blocks. “But if you weren’t careful, it’s hard to beat us at all. So, you know, good luck with it, Louisville.”
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In the title game, the Seminoles hope for another performance from Williams, as received on Saturday evening. The novice phenomenon, which has already signed up for the NBA draft, scored 26 points in 10-of-13 shooting from the ground. He hit two 3-pointers and made all four of his free-throw attempts.
At the start of the first half, he also threw a malicious dunk over the Kansas All-America Center Udoka Azubuike.
“It was like he had never seen a Patrick film before,” said senior guard Trent Forrest, who graduated with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. “He just stood there and then jumped too late. At that point, Pat was already dipping the ball off his head.”
“It was incredible,” said Gray. “The ball jumped over our bench and into the crowd. Have you ever seen this before? I’m surprised that it didn’t jump in M.J.’s face and knocked out his teeth or something. It was just crazy.
“Pat is different, man. I can imagine that he blew up a few draft boards after tonight.”
The Seminoles had to go to the national semi-final without the M.J. Play Walker because the NCAA hit him with an imprisonment earlier this week. The junior guard was disciplined after attacking the Houston Rockets mascot, Clutch, during the Seminole Elite 8 victory over the state of Ohio. (As of Saturday evening, the viral video of this incident was viewed over 55 million times on YouTube.)
Anthony Polite took Walker’s place on the grid.
“Yes, it was cool to be on The Tonight Show and Ellen this week,” said Walker. “But being on the bench tonight and not being allowed to play with my brothers was unbearable. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done … apart from coming back from the T-shirt gun injury.
“I’m just glad we got it out. Devin was great. Trent was Trent. And ‘Swatch’ (polite) played great on defense.”
Even with Williams’ breakout performance and even with the Seminoles, which forced 19 sales in Kansas, the Seminoles could never really separate from the Jayhawks.
Top scorer Devon Dotson scored 29 points, including 18 in the second half. As always, Azubuike was dominant and collected 22 points and 17 rebounds. After Kansas took the 71-68 lead five minutes before the end, the senior All-American’s biggest weakness came to the fore.
Azubuike, a 41.5 percent career free-throw shooter, missed six out of seven off the line in the next four minutes.
“It was a great strategy from coach Ham to get Azu-Brick-e on the line like that,” said Wilkes, who came in twice to spot the big Kansas man. “I kept asking him if he knew the goal was to get the ball through the hoop. And I’ll tell you what, this guy has NO sense of humor. Eighty-four inches boring.”
Wilkes, who has become a media and fan favorite over the past few weeks due to his twists and filterless quotes, said he developed the “Can’t-sas” line on Friday and couldn’t wait to use it.
“I had been bending over to Check yo Self all week before we ruin Bill Self,” said Wilkes, referring to the Kansas head coach. “But I thought that could be disrespectful because coach Ham and he have such a story together, so I decided to insult the entire state instead.”
Self was actually the first assistant coach Leonard Hamilton ever hired. He worked for Hamilton in Oklahoma since 1986 and they worked together for four years before Hamilton moved to Miami.
After the biggest win in Hamilton’s career, the two shook hands and exchanged a short word in midfield.
“I told him, ‘That’s because we stole Andrew Wiggins,'” said Hamilton with a smile. “No, Bill is a great coach and he has a great program. I just thought we did a few more games on the track than she did.”
While Azubuike rattled free throws, the Seminoles wrestled control of the game. A put-back by Williams reduced the lead from Kansas to 73-72 with 2:07 left. And then, one possession later, Gray hit the biggest shot of his life – a starting shot 3 two seconds ahead of the shot clock.
“I pumped and started driving,” said Gray. “Then I saw a defender who was starting to help in the paint. I had been called on three charges so I decided that attacking the basket might not be a good idea. I just dribbled, backed up and let him fly. And it was all net. I mean, they don’t call me ‘Big Shot RaiQuan’ for nothing. “
“Nobody calls you that, man,” said Vassell with a smile from the next locker.
“Well, they’re going to do it now,” Gray replied.
According to the tall man’s 3-pointer, the Seminoles 75-73 left 1:11 on the left. Kansas took time off to play a play, and Florida State included Olejniczak in the lineup.
Late in the clock, the senior center on top of the key was switched to Dotson. The Kansas security guard went into paint and tried to get to the goal, but Olejniczak struck his shot from behind – straight into the arms of Polite, who was immediately fouled.
“I just did a piece,” said Olejniczak. “That’s what this team is about. You get an opportunity, you do a piece. I’ve never done such a big one, but I just did my job. And it’s thanks to Swatch that he went to the other end and to knock down those free throws. “
Complimentary two free throws gave the Seminoles a lead of two ball owners 46 seconds ahead. Kansas missed another shot at the other end, Vassell grabbed the rebound, made both free throws and the Seminoles were on their way to the national championship game.
“I’m very happy for Leonard,” said Self. “If I lost four points in a Final Four game, I would like it to apply to his team. They play right. They really do. Even the Wilkes kid. He’s probably saying some crazy things. ” As if he came to our bank twice during the game and said he was the real “self-help guru”. I don’t even know that means. But he’s still playing right.
“They all do. The Williams kid is real. Vassell is great. Forrest is just so composed. And then someone like Gray steps back and drills the biggest shot of the game. They’re a great team. They deserve it. Me ‘I will root her on Monday night. “
Hamilton said, “We’re not ready to bow yet. I don’t think you can cut the net for second place, so we know we still have work to do to prepare for the title game.” But I think we showed everyone that we are not just a small, old state of Florida that was happy about the Final Four. We are one of them. And we are here to win. “
The ‘Noles Louisville have to beat this season for the third time.
The Cardinals have won their five NCAA tournament games with an average of 13 points. Top scorer Jordan Nwora had 33 points and 9 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Gonzaga.
“It’s nice to see Nwora play so well after Trent sent him to TMH a few weeks ago,” said Wilkes.
“We don’t like them. They don’t like us,” added Gray. “Monday night will be a lot of fun.”
About this story
It was the best regular season in school history and one that was interrupted with an ACC championship and a No. 4 national rankings in the postseason.
What made what happened next so frustrating and heartbreaking.
With the cancellation of the NCAA 2020 tournament, the players, coaches and fans of the state of Florida will never know how far the Seminoles would have come.
Would more nets have been cut off? Would another trophy have been hoisted? Would Trent Forrest and the boys have had more heroics?
Well it’s time to find out … with Warchants 2020 What could have been an NCAA tournament?
Here is the summary of the FSU’s victory in the first round against Belmont, and so the Seminoles beat the LSU in the second round. In Sweet 16, the Seminoles recovered from a huge deficit to take out Maryland. Then they dropped Ohio State in the Elite Eight.
Discuss this story with fans at the Warchant forum in Seminole Hoops.