TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP)—Toledo learned what the Atlantic Coast Conference had to deal with all year in Florida State’s Al Thornton.
“Obviously, Thornton is a boatload,” Toledo coach Stan Joplin said after Thornton scored 24 points and displayed his vast array of moves in the Seminoles’ 77-61 victory over the Rockets.
The Seminoles (21-12) will host Michigan in a second-round game Thursday. The Wolverines advanced with a 68-68 win Tuesday over Utah State.
Florida State led 39-23 at the half behind 15 points from Thornton, who went scoreless the first 5:36 of the game before breaking loose.
In a span of just 2:33, Thornton scored four baskets, assisted on another, blocked a shot and grabbed a pair of rebounds as the Seminoles took a 20-13 lead midway through the first half. Thornton’s first basket, a layup, gave Florida State the lead for good at 9-8.
“Nothing he does will surprise me,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He seems to do whatever it takes (to) raise his game.”
Justin Ingram’s 17 points led Toledo (19-13), the Mid-American Conference regular-season champions. Keonta Howell and Florentino Valencia added 13 apiece for the Rockets.
The Seminoles shot 62.3 percent from the floor and outrebounded the smaller Rockets 33-23. Toledo shot only 41.4 percent in the game, despite Howell and Valencia going 10-for-16.
The 6-foot-8 Thornton, the leading scorer in the ACC this season, hit 11 of his final 15 shots after missing his first two. He has scored in double figures in all of Florida State’s games this season.
And he didn’t want to waste the size advantage he had against the Rockets.
“I wasn’t going to settle for a jump shot in this game,” Thornton said. “I made my mind up before the game, just try to get to the basket and try to get some easy baskets.”
Toledo managed to cut its deficit to 45-36 with 15:22 left on two free throws by Howell, but Thornton responded with a dunk and Florida State steadily built its lead to as many as 18 before Hamilton emptied his bench with 1:30 left.
Isaiah Swann had a 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Seminoles and freshman Ryan Reid added 10 points in 21 minutes off the bench. Swann also had a game-high five assists.
“They’re long and they’re athletic, to say the least,” Joplin said. “We don’t run into too many teams like that.”
Plus, the Seminoles were still smarting from being left out of the NCAA tournament field for a second straight season despite a 20-victory season.
“We’re kind of motivated off that,” Thornton said. “I don’t think we needed a pep talk. We’re pretty focused.”
Thornton now has 1,494 points career points, surpassing former Seminoles and Boston Celtics great Dave Cowens as the eighth leading scorer in school history.
“He’s never had a bad effort day,” Hamilton said. “He has that type of motor.”