By Tim Linafelt
Seminoles.com Senior Writer
@Tim_Linafelt on Twitter
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Two warm-ups down, regular season to go.
The Florida State men’s basketball team coasted in its preseason finale, riding 16 points from junior guard Aaron Thomas to a 99-45 win over Belmont Abbey College at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
The Seminoles open their season at home Saturday against Manhattan (1 p.m., ESPN3) as part of the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic.
“I thought our effort was good,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “Obviously we’re a far superior team than Belmont Abbey, but I was more (wanting to see) that we were playing against our ability to sustain our effort and sustain our focus for the whole 40 minutes.
“And, for the most part, we did.”
Thomas led FSU’s scoring effort for the second straight game. He connected on seven of his eight attempts from the field and added two rebounds and a steal in just 15 minutes.
Senior center Kiel Turpin, in his second game back from a knee injury that cost him all of last season, had another strong effort with 14 points, four rebounds and a hard dunk that closed the game.
Turpin didn’t miss a single shot, finishing 4 of 4 from the floor and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“I feel like I need to lose a little more weight and get in better shape, but, other than that, I’m game-ready,” Turpin said. “I’m bouncing back. Right now, I feel perfectly fine.”
Montay Brandon (6 points, 4 rebounds), Devon Bookert (5 points, 5 assists) and Jarquez Smith (7 points, six rebounds) rounded out the starting lineup for FSU, which emptied the bench and got points from all 13 players who entered the game.
Monday night also offered another early glimpse at newcomers Phil Cofer and Dayshawn Watkins, as well as redshirt freshman Xavier Rathan-Mayes.
Cofer, a 6-8 freshman forward, was the third Seminole to reach double-digits. He had 11 points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
Hamilton said that, like most freshmen, Cofer still has plenty of room for progress. But his teammates have already noticed Cofer’s infectious energy.
“Phil is always dancing, always doing something, ” Brandon said. “So we know when he gets on the court, he’s going to give it all he’s got. And that makes everybody else want to do the same thing.”
Hamilton also enjoyed a far better defensive effort than what he saw in FSU’s first exhibition.
FSU limited the Crusaders to just 28.8 percent from the floor and also forced 23 turnovers. But, numbers aside, Hamilton was pleased with how the Seminoles executed their defensive system.
“Tonight, early in the game, I thought our defensive principles were pretty good,” Hamilton said. “A lot better than we were the other night.”
Which is good, because he expects a challenge from Manhattan on Saturday. The Jaspers made the NCAA tournament last season and took Louisville to the wire before succumbing, 71-64, in the second round.
“They’re a team that really attacks the basket off the dribble, which means they’re going to test all our defensive principles,” Hamilton said. “It was a two-point game in the NCAA tournament with Louisville, so they’ve got our attention.”