Tallahassee, Fla. -A game after shooting their way to an 11 point win against Georgetown, Florida State was forced to grind out a 78-75 victory over Louisiana Tech.
“Our guys are playing unselfish; they’re making the extra pass, creating for each other,” FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said after the game, “I am very proud of our guys and how they are playing to each other, creating for each other.”
With just under sixteen minutes to go in the game the season seemed to be slipping away from FSU. LA Tech led 45-44 and senior Okaro White was headed to the bench after committing his fourth foul. The Bulldogs took advantage, extending their lead to seven, before sophomore Aaron Thomas and senior Ian Miller took over for the Seminoles. Thomas and Miller combined to score 14 points in a six minute period as FSU went on a 19-9 run to take the lead for good.
“I was just being aggressive towards the end” Thomas said, “just trying to make plays even if it was defense or offense.”
Thomas scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half as he led his team to a victory and a berth in the NIT semifinals. This marked the third straight game in which Thomas has scored 20-plus points, the longest such streak of his career.
“Offense is coming along,” Thomas said on his improvement over the last three games, “I don’t think I’m out there hunting for shots or you know making crazy plays. It’s just my confidence and being able to step up.”
Florida State held senior night against Syracuse earlier this season, but tonight marked the final time the seniors would get to play at home. After losing to the Orange the seniors had a second chance to leave their home court with a win. Senior Okaro White, who has played more games in an FSU uniform than any other player, made sure this time around it was different.
“We came out here and did it,” said White “I was very proud of our young guys. They stepped up and played their hearts out for me, Ian, and (Robert) Gilchrist.”
He led his team with 14 points in the first half and finished the game with 20. Fellow senior Ian Miller added nine points including a big three to finish the Seminoles’ second half run and retake the lead.
Florida State will now travel to New York City for the NIT semifinals. The Seminoles will play Minnesota at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
“It’s everybody’s dream,” said Thomas, “everyone wants to play in Madison Square Garden.”