TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Ian Miller is smiling and having fun.
It beats the alternative, which was last season: hobbling and struggling.
Miller fought through a frustrating junior season in which he battled a bone bruise on his foot. He missed six games, returning in time for the ACC schedule and could play — but only if he didn’t practice. And when he played, the results weren’t great. Miller’s foot was aching, and the pain affected his jumper.
After resting his foot in the offseason, Miller is back to his old form. The senior scored 20 points and made 6 of 8 3-pointers in Sunday night’s 85-61 win over Maryland in what was one of the best nights from the perimeter that a Florida State player has ever had.
"Every night I feel like I can have a good night," Miller said. "My confidence is never lagging. (It) was one of those nights where I feel like they left me too open. My teammates just did a great job of getting me the ball in good spots. I just stuck my hand up and followed through and they were all money."
Miller is enjoying a career season for Florida State, which is off to an 11-4 start and is 2-1 in the ACC heading into Wednesday’s road game against Miami (9-6, 1-2 ACC).
He has made 26 3-pointers, already surpassing his 2012-13 total of 24. He averages 13.9 points per game, more than doubling up his 5.3 average from last season.
"You expect him to make shots," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He’s a big-time player."
But he’s not your typical 3-point shooter: Miller also leads the team with 56 assists. Playing healthy again, Miller’s minutes are of course way up, rising from 18.8 to a team-high 27.9. He now has 107 career 3-pointers and is just four away from 15th place on Florida State’s all-time list.
Miller is also doing it while coming off the bench in all 15 games. Florida State likes to start Devon Bookert at point guard and Montay Brandon at shooting guard, but Miller doesn’t stay on the bench long. On Sunday night, he entered the game after being on the bench for the first 3:35. And 90 seconds later he had an assist and had knocked down his first 3-pointer.
But this is what Miller prefers. He enjoys watching the defense and picking up on the flow of the game. When coach Leonard Hamilton calls on Miller, he’s ready to go and often provides instant offense.
It’s certainly unconventional for the team’s leading scorer to essentially be a sixth man — and lead the team in minutes — but it’s tough to argue with the results.
"This rotation works for what we’re trying to do," Hamilton said. "Sometimes it may not look quite as efficient on offense, but when you look at the big picture of a 40-minute game and what we have to do with the talent that we have, it works for who we are and what we’re about."
Florida State is as deep and athletic as any team in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season. The Seminoles have shown they hate to play the slow-it-down, grind-it-out pace and suffered a home loss to woeful Virginia on Jan. 4, a defeat that was a wake-up call.
The Seminoles bounced back with a 15-point win at Clemson and then a 24-point rout of Maryland. Florida State loves to use its aggressive defense to create transition baskets. And even in the half-court offense, the Seminoles have the ability to score in the post or on the perimeter.
On Sunday, Maryland tried to guard the post. And the Terrapins paid the price. Florida State made 16 three-pointers (Bookert and Aaron Thomas each added three 3s), setting a school record for the most shots made from beyond the arc in an ACC game. Oddly enough, the Seminoles were 16 of 24 from 3-point range and just 11 of 30 from inside the arc.
Few ACC teams can defend the post and perimeter well. When forced to choose, what will Florida State’s opponents do?
Miller sees an opportunity each possession, knowing that Florida State will be patient as it looks for an open shot.
"Any time we play unselfish, I think we’re one of the better teams in the country," Miller said. "And I think we can play with any team in the country. When we make the extra pass, we really can be dominant."