FSU wins, will face Michigan Thursday

Florida State wins the battle in the paint and Al Thornton scores 24 to keep season alive

Florida State isn't dancing, but Al Thornton and the Seminoles still have a lot of work to do if they want to cap off the 2006-07 in successful fashion.

Tuesday night they took the first step necessary in accomplishing that goal as Thornton's game-high 24 points helped lead second-seeded FSU past Toledo 77-61 in the opening round of the National Invitation Tournament.

After a disappointing showing in the Tribe's second-round loss to North Carolina last week, the senior Seminole forward was too much for the Rockets on both the inside and the outside. He finished the contest shooting 11-of-17 from the field while adding six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and a few highlight-reel dunks as well.

The 'Noles inspired performance was a welcome sign to FSU coaches and fans after Sunday's news that they had not received an anticipated bid to the NCAA Tournament.

"We have tried not to allow ourselves to fault anyone other than ourselves," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We have not tried to make excuses for out shortcomings. We just have not been able to overcome the obstacles on a consistent basis … we are trying to learn from and grow from it coming up short.

"Our biggest concern coming into this game was how we would bounce back emotionally."

Against a much smaller Rockets (19-13) squad – a team whose tallest post player stands 6-foot-5, the Seminoles (21-12) were able to do something that had been their Achilles'' heel this year, winning the battle in the paint.

FSU won the battle of the boards 33-23 and outscored Toledo in the post 54-30. The 54 points scored down low was the Seminoles' highest output there this season.

Backup forward Ryan Reid benefited the most from how the game played out. The Lauderdale Lakes native finished the game with 10 points, four rebounds and a block.

"Ryan stepped up and gave us some pretty good play inside and we are going to need that as we move to the next round in the NIT," Hamilton said.

Reid's double-digit point total, coupled with 12 points by Isaiah Swann and eight by Toney Douglas helped FSU spread the ball around in a balanced offensive attack.

"We were a lot more patient. We allowed the system to work for us," Hamilton said. "Very few times did we force anything. I remember very few bad shots. We made the extra pass and created shots for each other."

The Seminoles shot 62.3 percent from the field after achieving just a 39 percent shooting mark in the ACC tournament loss to the Tar Heels.

Florida State led 39-23 at the break. Thornton had 15 points in the game's first 20 minutes. The Seminoles will now face Michigan in a 7 p.m. showdown Thursday night at the Donald L. Tucker Center

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