Seminoles save their best for March

Florida State will face Louisiana Tech on Wednesday for a spot in the NIT Final Four at Madison Square Garden in New York City.


Mark L. Baer/Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida State has saved its best basketball for late March.

Unfortunately, it was in a Monday night NIT game and not a Sunday night NCAA Tournament game. But impressive, regardless.

Devon Bookert, for a long stretch, couldn’t miss a shot and was spot on with his passes on what was a career-high 21-point night. Aaron Thomas made 8 of 10 shots and had 26 points, matching a career high. And Ian Miller returned from an injury, brace supporting his right foot, to knock down 5 of 7 shots, as did Okaro White.

Where was this in January and February?

"We haven’t had many games when everybody’s been playing well," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.

It was there, at times. A few players were on but others weren’t — or were in foul trouble. Not for one sustained outing. If there were more nights like Monday’s performance, Florida State could have been playing in the Big Dance.

The Seminoles (21-13) made 11 3-pointers and shot an impressive 68.2 percent from the floor as they advanced to the third round of the NIT with a 101-90 win over Georgetown on Monday night.

"They were making threes no matter what defense we threw at them," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "Nothing really affected them."

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Georgetown (18-15) does a lot of things well. The Hoyas can shoot jumpers and dunk. They are athletic and pass well. Defense is not one of their strengths. Still, Florida State put together a remarkable 40 minutes of basketball.

Florida State shot 8 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc and 8 of 12 from inside the arc during a scorching first half that saw the Seminoles go ahead 48-35. And then the Seminoles were even better in the second half, making 14 of 19 shots (and all three 3-point attempts) as Florida State put up a season-high total on the Hoyas.

It wasn’t just one or two players that had the hot hand. Thomas, Bookert, White and Miller combined were 22 of 29 from the floor, including 11 of 14 from beyond the arc.

"I think that with so many people on our team that can score and do a bunch of different things," Bookert said, "the go-to person should be the person that’s open."

Georgetown had allowed just 80 points in six games. And Kansas State was the only team that hit 90, on the dot. Florida State put up 101.

"Obviously, you have some of those nights," Hamilton said.

The Seminoles (21-13) could use a few more of those nights. Florida State now has a tight turnaround for a home game Louisiana Tech on Wednesday with a spot in the NIT’s final four at Madison Square Garden at stake.

Oddly, it was Louisiana Tech that knocked Florida State out of the NIT in the first round last March.

"It was a bad taste in our mouth from them beating us last year," Thomas said. "I think we’ve matured enough and we grew up now. We do what we supposed to do, everything else will take care of itself.

"None of us played at Madison Square Garden. That would be a real good experience for us."

Florida State’s seniors wouldn’t mind the experience of playing at the famed arena as well as extending their careers.

White stayed out of foul trouble and had 16 points, four rebounds and three blocks. Miller played for the first time since hurting his foot in an ACC Tournament quarterfinal loss to Virginia. But he came off the bench to play 26 minutes and made 4 of 6 3-pointers.

"He’s a terrific player," Thompson said. "That kid is a hell of a player."

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