ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tulane coach Perry Clark had it all figured out. Stop the Florida State running game and shut the 11th-ranked Seminoles down at the three-point line and the Green Wave just might get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
In theory, it sounded great. In reality, it couldn't be done. The Seminoles shot from anywhere they wanted and ran away with an easy 94-63 victory yesterday in the Southeast Regional at the Orlando Arena.
Former Dunbar High star Sam Cassell went 7-for-7 from the three-point line and scored a game-high 31 points as Florida State broke away late in the first half and blew away the Green Wave in the early minutes of the second.
"I had the momentum today," said Cassell, who was 11-for-16 from the field overall. "The guys found me when I was open and I felt comfortable out there. Our team is doing a great job finding the open player."
Cassell had the hottest hand, but he was not alone. Senior forward Doug Edwards dominated the inside game and scored 22 points on an 8-for-16 performance from the field. The Seminoles also got 16 points from Bobby Sura and 13 from center Rodney Dobard to earn a place among the Sweet 16. Florida State will play Western Kentucky in the regional semifinal Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the effort that our players have put out in these first two games," Florida State coach Pat Kennedy said. "I think that's the finest defense that we've played in back-to-back games this year and our offensive continuity was great."
The Seminoles came into the Southeast Regional looking for improvement from the three-point line and they got it. They had converted just three of 21 three-point attempts on the way to a first-round loss to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, but Florida State hit seven of 13 on the way to an easy first-round victory over Evansville and Cassell was unstoppable yesterday.
"I think everybody is concentrating more now," said Cassell. "In this tournament, every shot is a big shot. Guys are shooting and they know it's going to go in."
Clark knew what his team would be up against. He said during the day-off news conference that Tulane would have to set the tempo to stay in the game, and the Green Wave set the tempo for the first 18 minutes. He said Tulane would have to keep the Seminoles out of their running game, and the Green Wave had some success until Florida State's eight-point burst at the end of the half.
Cassell was right in the middle of it. He pumped in his third three-point shot to give the Seminoles a five-point lead at 1:21 and pulled off a steal to set himself up for a layup to push the lead to nine with 22 seconds left. A free throw by Edwards sent Florida State into the locker room leading, 39-29, at the half and the Seminoles picked up right where they left off when they returned to the floor.
Florida State scored 55 points in a near-perfect second half, making a prophet of Clark, who had said Friday that his team would not be able to compete in a 90-point game.
"A coach can design a whole lot of things," Clark said, "but it takes the soldiers to carry it out. Our kids were excited. We were going at a little faster pace than we would have liked. Today, we faced a basketball team
that likes to do the same things we like to do, and they have the better athletes."
The Seminoles will need the next five days to get healthy. Dobard looked like he might miss the second half after he suffered a bruised big toe on his left foot, but he came back to score eight points in a three-minute spurt to help Florida State blow the game open. Point guard Charlie Ward suffered a bruised knee late in the first half and played the second with a brace.
Nothing was going to stop the Seminoles, who will go to Charlotte with a tremendous amount of confidence and momentum.
"This is great," Edwards said. "The first year [two years ago], we got into the first round. Last year, we moved into the second round. Now, we're looking for even better things."