Aaron Thomas paced Florida State to a 58-53 round one NIT victory over Florida Gulf Coast University on Tuesday evening. The sophomore guard scored 22 points — at one point taking over the second half of the game — and lead the Seminoles to a tight win on a night that featured quite a bit of sloppy basketball.
The two teams traded more turnovers than baskets in a 24-19 first half that saw FSU shoot 8-18 (44%) and FGCU shoot just 7-22 (32%). The Eagles turned it over 13 times while the Seminoles coughed it up 11 more. Even the free throw shooting was dodgy with both teams only hitting at 50%.
Okaro White lead the first half scoring for the Seminoles with 10 of his 17 coming in the opening 20 minutes. But neither team was able to get much momentum. The tempo of play was very high-paced, the scoring however was not.
“I thought we had a period there where we shot the ball a little quick and they were doing a very good job of jamming the lanes and I thought we kind of played into their hands there at the beginning of the first half where we tried to attack,” said Hamilton. “Once we started moving the ball and reversing the ball a little bit and at least gave them a chance to make a defensive mistake I thought we got high percentage shots and got a chance to drive a little more.”
Aaron Thomas took over in the second half for FSU and provided more than enough firepower to help the Seminoles live to fight another day in the NIT.
With no Ian Miller (out due to an ankle injury) Thomas was ready to step up for the ‘Noles, playing all 40 minutes and coming up with offense at key moments — at one point even scoring 14 straight.
“He put on his big boy pants tonight,” said Hamilton.
It was a sign Florida State fans had probably been hoping to see all season, at times Thomas looked in complete control of the game, aware of his ability to slash to the hoop almost at will.
“I had no idea I scored that many in a row, my teammates did a good job of finding me and guys were just having confidence in me making those plays, I think I just did a good job of reading the defense and reacting to it. Like I said, I think I did a good job of being patient in the second half and letting the game come to me,” Thomas said.
Added Hamilton: “Aaron’s best basketball is still ahead of him, he’s still growing.”
But even Thomas’ performance couldn’t mask a tough shooting night for the Seminoles.
Despite holding FGCU below 40% shooting and forcing 19 turnovers, the Eagles were able to hang around largely due in part to FSU’s turnovers and inefficiency at the line (16-28).
Beyond Thomas and White’s combined 39 points, just three other Seminoles scored. Montay Brandon and Boris Bojanovsky each had eight, Devin Bookert added three. The Seminoles also finished with 16 turnovers to just five assists.
Next up, Florida State will play host to Georgetown in round two of the NIT on Monday night (time TBA).
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