Louisiana Tech vs Florida State

Thomas' big finish helps Florida State reach NIT semifinals

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State was considered one of the first four teams left out of the NCAA tournament by the selection committee.

Now the Seminoles are going to the final four of the NIT.

Aaron Thomas scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and Okaro White had 14 first-half points as Florida State defeated Louisiana Tech 78-75 on Wednesday night to advance to the NIT semifinals.

"We have not won a national title," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "To compete in the NIT is a tremendous opportunity for our guys. Hopefully we'll take advantage of it."

Louisiana Tech's Raheem Appleby missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final 7 seconds that could have tied the game.

Thomas has scored 20 or more points in all three of FSU's NIT wins. The sophomore guard, who also had nine rebounds, has averaged 18.9 points in eight games in March."

"He's a freak of an athlete with ball skills," Louisiana Tech coach Michael White said of Thomas. "He's a really tough cover."

White finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.

FSU (22-13) will play Minnesota in the NIT semifinals on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Seminoles advanced to the NIT semis for the first time since 1997.

Kenneth Smith had 16 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes for Louisiana Tech (29-8).

"He's phenomenal," White said. "Speedy is the best passer in college basketball. He's probably the toughest kid I've ever coached."

Cordarius Johnson added 11 points for Louisiana Tech.

White finished with 20 points and eight rebounds. But when he sat down with his fourth foul at the 15:57 mark, Louisiana Tech led 45-44.

The Bulldogs then went on a 6-0 run to go up 51-44 on free throws by Smith and layups by Kenyon McNeail. FSU chipped away at the Bulldogs' lead and went ahead for good, 63-60, on Ian Miller's 3-pointer with 7:21 left.

Montay Brandon had six points in the final 5:39 to help FSU hang on.

The Seminoles shot 26 of 58 (44.8 percent) from the floor. The Bulldogs made just 26 of 73 (35.6 percent) of their shots from the floor.

FSU didn't make the NCAA tournament, something that disappointed Hamilton and the Seminoles. Last year, FSU played in the NIT but was knocked off in the first round at home by Louisiana Tech. This time, FSU players talked of turning a negative into a positive and making a deep run in the NIT.

"Even though we didn't make the NCAA, we wanted to come into the NIT and still play with that toughness and try to win it," Thomas said.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
 
Scoreboard
Louisiana Tech 334275
Florida State «374178

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Conference USA
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Middle Tenn.5-013-428
Western Ky.5-013-538
Old Dominion4-113-4102
UAB4-113-5160
Marshall3-212-6141
North Texas3-210-8182
FAU2-38-9204
FIU2-38-10291
So. Miss2-49-10205
UT-San Antonio2-49-10285
UTEP2-47-11318
Charlotte1-45-11297
Rice1-44-14323
La. Tech1-510-9153

ACC
TeamConf. W-LTot. W-LRPI Rank
Virginia5-016-13
Clemson4-115-27
Louisville3-113-419
Georgia Tech3-110-7135
Duke4-216-21
N. Carolina3-214-45
Notre Dame3-213-550
Boston College3-313-683
Miami (Fla.)2-313-420
Va. Tech2-313-573
NC State2-312-668
Florida St.2-413-541
Syracuse1-412-634
Wake Forest1-48-9126
Pittsburgh0-58-10158
 
Other NIT games
CAL 65 Final
SMU 67