LOS ANGELES -- It was a surreal moment.
No. 9 seed Florida State – which limped into the tournament losing three of its last four games – was celebrating its first trip to the Elite 8 in 25 years, while No. 4 seed Gonzaga – a team that was in the National Championship game just last year – walked dejectedly off the court.
The Seminoles (23-11) led almost from start to finish in the 75-60 Sweet 16 win over Gonzaga (32-5) in front of 19,181 fans in the Staples Center.
"It's crazy, man," senior forward Phil Cofer told the Tallahassee Democrat.
"From all my four years here. Not making the NIT to making the NIT the next year. It's really unbelievable. It's exciting to do it with this group of guys."
With the win, FSU will take on No. 3 seed Michigan (31-7) at 8:50 p.m. on Saturday after its blowout victory over No. 7 seed Texas A&M in the Seminoles first Elite 8 since 1993.
It's just the third time in program history (1972) that the Seminoles have been one of the final eight teams left standing.
"It's significant, but we've got to stay focused," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.
We can't allow ourselves to get to ahead of ourselves. We've got to enjoy this and then prepare to see if we can tee this thing up and go have another good game."
It was a back-and-forth second half with the Seminoles and Bulldogs trading blows, but FSU's athleticism and depth took its toll in the end with the Seminoles pulling away for a 15-point victory.
"We just could never generate any real, consistent, offensive rhythm, and that's because of their length and their athleticism, and their aggressiveness and their switching," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
"They do a really, really nice job with that. If you make a mistake or make a turnover, they jump on it, and sting you in transition, and that inevitably kind of was our downfall."
FSU maintained a lead for the final 22:30 of the game though Gonzaga did cut the lead to as low as four with 10 minutes remaining.
It was a total team effort for FSU with 11 players scoring in the game, but junior guard Terance Mann found a gear that he hadn't shown since January. He finished the game with 18 points.
"I was just able to get angles on my defenders," Mann said. "I was scoring early so the basket looked big to me."
He was the only FSU player to score in double figures.
Mann was all over the court, and his relentless pressure on defense created scoring opportunities for his teammates and himself.
Gonzaga's second leading scorer -- forward Killian Tillie -- did not play after being a late scratch to the starting lineup with a hip injury. That left the already short bench for the Bulldogs even shorter with his absence.
Gonzaga played just eight players and only six of them found the basket. Forward Rui Hachimura led the Bulldogs with 16 points.
The Seminoles defense stood tall again holding the Bulldogs to just 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. Gonzaga came into the game shooting 37.1 percent from three.
"I think we did a good job of speeding them up," Mann said.
"Speeding them up got them out of their rhythm and got them doing things that they weren't used to doing.
FSU went up 23-11, but a 15-0 Gonzaga run over four minutes gave the Bulldogs a three-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining in the half.
From that point on it was all Seminoles in the first half.
FSU outscored Gonzaga 18-6 over the final 6:31 of the half with key threes from C.J. Walker and P.J. Savoy.
Walk-on Brandon Allen came on in the final two minutes for the Seminoles because of the huge disparity in foul calls – FSU (15) was called for more than double (7) the fouls that Gonzaga was – between both teams.
Allen picked up a huge rebound and got an assist on one of Walker’s threes, and then hit a buzzer beating jumper to put the Seminoles up 41-32 at the break.
"I was just thrown into the game out of nowhere, and I'm going to play as hard as I can," Allen said.
"Shout out to Trent (Forrest) for finding me. I felt like I was open for 10 seconds. Nobody was guarding me. I'm probably not even on the scouting report. Trent finds me at the buzzer, the floater goes in, and it definitely provided a spark heading into the half."
FSU’s bench came up big for the Seminoles in the first half with 23 points compared to just one for the Bulldogs.
The foul disparity between the two teams continued to rise in the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Seminoles – which drew the most fouls of any team in the ACC this season – were called for 19 fouls to just eight against Gonzaga through the first 28 minutes of the game.
Gonzaga entered the game on a 16-game winning streak -- the longest in Division I basketball -- and shot a season-low 34 percent from the field.