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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Saturday morning tipoff and not playing for two weeks did not faze Shakayla Thomas and Florida State.
The senior scored 26 points as the third-seeded Seminoles rolled to a 91-49 victory over No. 14 seed Little Rock in a women's NCAA Tournament Albany Region first-round game on Saturday. Florida State will face No. 11 seed Buffalo in a second-round game on Monday.
"Considering we haven't played in awhile, it was basically knocking off rust, getting in the motion again, getting the feel for the court, playing as a team and doing what we do best," Thomas said.
The points are a tournament high for Thomas, eclipsing the 23 she scored against Western Illinois in the first round last year. The 5-foot-11 forward who was playing in her 12th NCAA Tournament game, was 11 of 15 from the field in 19 minutes. She scored Florida State's first six points and had 16 in the first half as the host team was ahead 53-30 at halftime.
The Seminoles (26-6), who were 35 of 60 from the field, put the game out of reach by going on a 23-0 run during an 8-minute span in the second and third quarters.
"I really thought our players rose to the challenge," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "We called some different offenses and some different things for some different people which was different then we normally do and they did a good job of executing."
Chatrice White and Nikki Ekhomu each scored 13 points and AJ Alix added 12 for Florida State. White also had 10 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season.
The play of Thomas and White was one reason why the Seminoles had a 50-12 advantage in points in the paint.
"The one thing I felt like really set the tone in the first half was the way we went to the offensive glass. We got second shots and that was important for us knowing we had the freedom to shoot," Semrau said.
Florida State made only two of its first nine from the field and fell behind 8-4 with 6:30 remaining in the first quarter. The Seminoles then shook off the slow start by making eight of their last 11 shots in the first quarter, which included an 11-0 run, to take a 22-15 lead at the end of the quarter.
Little Rock allowed a season high in points. They came into the game sixth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 52.6 points per game.
"Our offense started off pretty good. We got some shots and got a little confidence going. Then we started letting them get to the basket and I think we lost it on the defensive end," Little Rock coach Joe Foley said.
Tori Lasker led the Trojans (23-10) with 13 points and Keanna Keys added 11.
Little Rock: The Trojans were making their fifth tournament appearance and have a 2-5 record. They will lose two starters due to graduation but Ronjanae DeGray, who is the team's leading scorer and rebounder, still has one more year of eligibility.
Florida State: The Seminoles, who are looking to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight season, have won 15 straight games in the first round dating back to 1991. It is the second-longest active streak among ACC teams, only trailing Duke, who has won 24 straight opening games.
NOT ALL WENT WELL
The only part of Thomas' game where she struggled was at the free throw line, where she went 4 of 11, including 2 of 8 in the second half.
"I've already pointed that out to her. I asked how does someone hit 11 of 15 contested shots and then shoot like that from the line?," Semrau said.
Semrau pointed out a small quirk in Thomas' delivery while Thomas added another reason.
"I've been working on jump shots. I totally forgot about free throws thinking I wouldn't get fouled," she said.
Monday's game against Buffalo will mark the first time that Florida State has faced a Mid-American Conference team in the NCAA Tournament. It will also be the first meeting between the two schools.
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