ORLANDO, Fla. -- The 11th-ranked Florida State Seminoles didn't want to make headlines yesterday, not in the upset round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
They had made enough news during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, when they lost to Clemson in the first round, so they were hoping to sneak through their opening-round NCAA matchup against unranked Evansville without attracting too much attention.
No problem. The Seminoles took off on an 18-point run in the first half and had little trouble moving into the round of 32 with an 82-70 victory over the Aces in the Southeast Regional at the Orlando Arena.
"It was a step we needed to take," Florida State coach Pat Kennedy said. "I feel that everything that has happened -- particularly the Clemson loss -- is behind us now. They were ready to play."
Florida State (23-9) moves into a second-round matchup tomorrow against 11th-seeded Tulane, which upset sixth seed Kansas State, 55-53, in the second game of yesterday's four-game program here. Western Kentucky beat Memphis State, 55-52, in the third game and second-seeded Seton Hall faced Tennessee State in the nightcap.
In the opener, former Dunbar High star Sam Cassell led the way with 18 points as the Seminoles rediscovered their long-range shooting touch and pushed Evansville out of the tournament with a 7-for-13 performance from the three-point line. But the game was all but decided during a four-minute stretch in which every Florida State player on the floor put the ball in the basket.
Point guard Charlie Ward broke an 18-18 tie with a three-point basket at 10:16 and the Seminoles pumped in three more three-pointers to take the Aces right out of the game. It was quite a turnaround for Florida State, which had suffered through a dismal 3-for-22 performance from the three-point line in the upset loss to Clemson last week.
"Obviously, that was a big factor," Evansville coach Jim Crews said. "They shot some threes and combined that with some steals and that was the key to the game."
Cassell scored five points during the first-half spurt and freshman forward Derrick Carroll put in a pair of three-point shots. The Aces cut the deficit to 14 at the half and made it respectable at the end, but Florida State never lost control of the game after Douglas Edwards' second three-pointer made it 36-18 at 5:54.
"I think the defense created a lot of our points," Cassell said. "We were allowing them to take only one shot and we got some easy shots. The key for us is playing aggressively. We're not a good team if we don't play hard."
The Aces made it interesting early, jamming the ball in to 7-foot-1 center Sascha Hupmann for three quick baskets to take a 7-2 lead. But the Seminoles exploited a flaw in the Evansville defensive scheme to take the offensive and never were in serious danger of being upset.
Evansville dropped off Ward, who had not played well since returning from a shoulder injury, but he responded with a 15-point performance that included three of four from the three-point line.
"We knew that they pick a non-shooter and don't play him," Kennedy said. "They were going to keep a guy in the paint. But Charlie banged in a few and Sam banged in a few. All of the little things we were concerned about -- the three-point shooting, playing good defense -- all of the good things developed that we wanted to see happen."