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No. 4 Florida State wears down No. 13 Vermont

Vermont v Florida State

HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT - MARCH 21: Trent Forrest #3 of the Florida State Seminoles drives towards the basket past Ben Shungu #24 of the Vermont Catamounts during their first round game of the 2019 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at XL Center on March 21, 2019 in Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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Florida State wore down No. 13 seed Vermont in the second half as the No. 4 seed Seminoles moved on with a 76-69 win on Thursday in a West Region game in Hartford.

The Seminoles (28-7) trailed by nine in the first half before rallying to tie it at halftime. Playing without senior forward Phil Cofer (foot in a walking boot), Florida State took some time to adjust on both ends of the floor. In the second half, the Seminoles made their big push behind strong offensive outings from Mfiondu Kabengale (21 points, nine rebounds) and Terence Mann (19 points). Kabengale and Mann were tough to stop on the interior as both did a nice job of finishing consistently around the rim.

Florida State didn’t have a great game shooting the ball (21-for-55 for 38 percent) on Thursday. To offset the inconsistent shooting, the Seminoles did an effective job of limiting turnovers (seven for the game) and knocking down free throws (31-for-37) to close out the game as Florida State scored 24 of its 49 second-half points from the free-throw line.

Vermont (27-7) stayed in the game thanks to its hot three-point shooting (16-for-32 for 50 percent) but they struggled to get any offense inside of the arc. Florida State’s superior length and athleticism proved to be tough on the Catamounts over the course of a full game as Vermont only had seven field goals that weren’t three-pointers.

Anthony Lamb (16 points) led four Catamount scorers in double-figures as Stef Smith (15 points), Ernie Duncan (15 points) and Ben Shungu (15 points) also contributed on the offensive end. Lamb, the America East Player of the Year, was limited to a 4-for-13 shooting day as he couldn’t get going on offense until late in the game.

This wasn’t the prettiest win for Florida State. But the Seminoles withstood a hot-shooting opponent during a game in which they weren’t playing their best on offense. That’s a very good sign for Florida State going forward, because if they figure things out on offense, then they’re looking like a very dangerous No. 4 seed. The health of Cofer will also be something to monitor for the next round as redshirt freshman Raiquan Gray made his second career start in his place.

Florida State moves on to face the winner of No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 12 seed Murray State on Saturday in Hartford.