Thomas, Noles Obliterate UNC-Charlotte; Undefeated UMass Looms Large

Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. FSU, led by Aaron Thomas’ 26 points (22 in the first half), lit up a good Charlotte team like it was their family Christmas tree. When the dust cleared, the Seminoles had six players score at least 11 points, 22 assists to just 9 turnovers, and scored the most points since putting up 108 against Campbell on December 22, 2005.

The 49ers, who actually led the game 3-0 for the opening two minutes, sauntered into Tallahassee winners of the Puerto Rico Challenge—yes, the same one the Noles finished 3rd in. However, their fast pace played right into the wheel house of FSU’s athletic guards and forwards, sending them back to North Carolina with their egos bruised and a 44 point defeat. How’s that for a lump of coal?

So just how did FSU manage to blow away a better than average UNC-Charlotte club? According to both coaches, rebounding and turnovers played a huge part.

“Obviously our guys played with a tremendous amount of energy and an unselfish spirit,” said a subdued Coach Hamilton after the game. “We didn’t turn the ball over—only had 9 turnovers—and then we had 15 offensive rebounds.”

Charlotte Head Coach Alan Major echoed Ham’s thoughts.

“They were tremendous tonight,” said Major. “It was 10-5 and then they hit us with a run and we didn’t respond…they did a great job on the offensive glass.”

That rebounding would be a determining factor was no shock here at TN, as Rogner directly pointed it out in the game preview. The fact that FSU dominated the glass against a formidable rebounding opponent—particlularly in the first half where FSU did not shoot well but still put up 52 points thanks to extended possessions generated by 13 offensive rebounds—was a bit of a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. After the game, Hamilton and company attributed much of the success to understanding just how daunting the task at hand was.

“[Tonight was a] direct result of the fact that we had a tremendous amount of respect for this Charlotte team,” commented Ham. “We’ve shown flashes that we are capable of putting a game together like this, but we had not put things together for a full 40 minutes…tonight we did.”

Aaron Thomas, the budding sophomore star, finished with 26 points in only 22 minutes and he too credited the team’s mindset coming into the game.

“We just followed the scouting report,” said Thomas after the game. “They are number 16 in the country in rebounding so that speaks.” When asked about last year, Thomas admitted that it’s “something they struggled with a lot.” However, he noted this year the entire team has a better understanding of just how important it is and something they continue to try to improve every day in practice.

Never one to bask in the glory of victory, Hamilton appeared to already convince his players to put the landslide victory behind them and prepare for an even tougher opponent this Saturday: undefeated UMass.

“They are undefeated, they’re nationally ranked…they have our attention,” remarked Ham. He also quipped about not being able to carry any of these points over to the next game and the importance of his maturing players to treat every opponent with the same level of intensity. If last night was any indication, the players are starting to get this message.

“UMass is number one in the RPI and a top 25 team,” said senior guard Ian Miller. “We gotta have that to get where we want to be at the end of the year.”

Other Notes and Quotes:

• FSU scored 52 in the first half, which was the most points in a half this season…until the Noles put up 54 in the second.

• “The score tonight, I don’t think is an indication that we are that many points better than them…this team brought the best out of us tonight.” –Coach Ham

• “He’s long, he’s active, and he played sound defense.” –Ham on freshman Jarquez Smith

• “Boris and Ojo are learning how to play good defense without reaching and fouling.” –Coach Ham

• “Aaron had that look in his eye tonight. He had 26 points, but I think a lot of those were hustle points. He [also] gave us a tremendous amount of defensive energy.” –Coach Ham

• “I know Aaron, I recruited Aaron when I was at Ohio State. He’s a terrific young man.” –Charlotte coach Alan Major on Aaron Thomas

• “That’s not excusable…they know it was wrong.” –Coach Major on the two players tossed.

• “I was confident; I’ve been working on my shot all summer.”—Aaron Thomas

• “I knew after my first three.”—Thomas when asked about his hot shooting

• “I think it’s good for me and him because we bring a spark and get the team going.”—Thomas on coming off the bench with Ian Miller

• “Previous games we were in a hurry…but today we were just relaxed and let the game come to us.”—Thomas on the low turnovers

• “I don’t think a lot of people can guard him in transition because he’s so explosive.”—Ian Miller speaking about Aaron Thomas

• “When we come off the bench that’s the first thing I say to him at the scorer’s table: ‘let’s get it runnin.’”—Miller speaking about him and Thomas enjoying a fast tempo.

• “I think I get more hyped than the person who dunked it.”—Miller when asked about all the ally oops this season.

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