Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Michael Porter Jr. made his 2018 NCAA men’s tournament debut Friday night, but he wasn’t enough to propel the No. 8 Missouri Tigers to victory.
The No. 9 Florida State Seminoles won the first-round West Regional matchup 67-54 in Nashville, Tennessee, at Bridgestone Arena.
Mfiondu Kabengele provided a spark for FSU off the bench, posting 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Runs of 11-0, 13-0 and 15-0 coupled with a dominant first-half defensive performance keyed the Seminoles’ victory. Of note, FSU held Missouri to just 21.7 percent shooting after 20 minutes as the Tigers hit just five of their 23 field goals.
The Seminoles led 42-20 at the break, but a rejuvenated Tigers team caught fire in the second half, using a 9-0 run midway through the frame to cut the FSU’s lead to 50-44. However, the Seminoles responded with that aforementioned 15-0 run to take a 65-44 advantage with 5:28 remaining.
Kabengele wasn’t the only Seminole reserve to have a big game, as Trent Forrest stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, eight assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks. He was also a catalyst for FSU’s strong first half, as Safid Deen of the Orlando Sentinel noted:
Safid Deen 💯💯💯💯 @Safid_Deen
HALFTIME: No. 9 seed FSU has opened up a 42-20 lead over No. 8 seed Mizzou. Trent Forrest and Phil Cofer have pushed the pace and set the tone, while FSU’s win-by-committee approach is shining bright. #Noles
Porter, who is projected to be a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA draft if he declares, amassed 16 points, 10 rebounds and three steals. However, he did not shoot well from the field (4-for-11) and also had four fouls and three turnovers.
In fairness, this was only Porter’s second game back from a serious spinal injury that sidelined him for all but two minutes during the regular season, so naturally, he didn’t get back his rhythm after missing so many games. It was also just the third contest of his collegiate basketball career.
Jeff Goodman and Jonathan Givony of ESPN provided some context regarding Porter’s performance and season:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
I give Michael Porter Jr., credit for coming back after missing the entire regular season. He’s not even close to the same player right now — and rightfully so. Ton of rust, difficult to mesh quickly with teammates, adjust to speed of the college game, etc.
Jonathan Givony @DraftExpress
Michael Porter’s (likely) final numbers at Missouri: 30 points on 10-30 shooting (7-9 FT), 20 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers in 53 minutes. No question he was nowhere close to 100%. Gotta respect the hustle. Gave it his all and was completely gassed at the end. Was ugly though.
The Seminoles were simply too strong for the Tigers all game, and Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports offered high praise afterward:
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
Florida State was an ignored team in the NCAA Tournament. Seminoles look like they did in 2011 when they popped Notre Dame in the Round of 32. Scary athleticism.
Now they’ll face the No. 1 Xavier Musketeers in the second round Sunday. Missouri ended its season with a 20-13 record.
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