Florida State needed a rebound win Tuesday night - and got one in a big, big way.
The Seminoles (7-3), fresh off two road losses to Florida and Minnesota, owned the boards and dismantled Charlotte (7-3), 106-62 in Tallahassee.
Aaron Thomas scored a career-high in the first half, pouring in 22 of his 26 points in the opening 20 minutes. Up 10-5 early in the game, FSU went on a 20-2 run to take command in the first 10 minutes. UNCC never got to within 15 points the rest of the way. The 106 points marked the first time in 8 years that the Seminoles had scored more than 100 in a game.
Thomas shot 10-14 from the field and 2-4 from three-point range, and also chipped in seven rebounds, three of them on offense.
"Aaron had that look in his eye tonight that he was determined he was going to go out and hold his end of the bargain and do all the things we needed him to do," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "A lot of his points were hustle points."
Thomas wasn't the only one to clean up on the glass Tuesday night. FSU as a team out-rebounded Charlotte 45-33, and that included 15 offensive rebounds. At half, FSU had given up just five offensive rebounds - something that's been a point of emphasis for Hamilton after offensive rebounds killed Florida State at Florida.
"They're No. 16 in the country in rebounding," Thomas said of Charlotte. "That's a beast. Our mindset was not to come out and get bullied in our house. … This year guys are understanding the importance of it."
One reason for the improvement was a tweak in the lineup: Okaro White played at the small forward position for the entire game while Jarquez Smith and Robert Gilchrist shared duties at power forward. White finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"It actually opened up the lanes," Thomas said. "Guys have a hard time of Ian is a driver and I can drive and Okaro can get to the basket. I like it, Ian likes it."
The effect was noticeable: White and Gilchrist hauled in seven offensive rebounds combined and Charlotte coach Alan Major said UNCC struggled to box out.
"I don't think we got bodies on them as physically as we could have," Major said. "Especially in the first half. They got the majority of their offensive rebounds in the first half. They didn't miss very much in the second half."
The Seminoles also avoided the typical turnovers that have plagued them for most of the season turning the ball over just nine times compared to 19 for Charlotte. It also didn't hurt that FSU shot a whopping 62.5 percent from the floor in the second half and also finished with 22 total assists.
With the lopsided score late in the game, Charlotte's frustration boiled to the surface. The 49ers had two players ejected: Pierria Henry was ejected after back-to-back technical fouls in the second half after dunking against Michael Ojo. A few minutes later, Willie Clayton was ejected for a flagrant foul.
The dominant win followed almost the exact same script as FSU's defeat of then-No. 10 VCU in the Puerto Rico Tipoff, and couldn't have come at a better time. The Seminoles travel to Miami this Saturday to take on undefeated No. 22 UMass in the Sunshine Classic. After that FSU returns home to take on Charleston Southern on Dec. 30 and then comes ACC play.
"We're too talented to not win a game when we get those type of numbers," Miller said. "It's all the little things. We've got all the big things. We've got the size, the speed, the quickness, the jumping ability. Now it's just doing the little things like having a good assist to turnover ratio, rebounding the ball, … and playing unselfish."