The junior forward scored 16 of her 20 points in the second half to propel the third-seeded Seminoles into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season with a 77-55 victory over No. 6 seed Missouri on Sunday.
Thomas, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, also had 11 rebounds for her second straight double-double game and fifth of the season. It is the 13th game this season where she has scored 10 or more points in the second half.
“I feel like I come out with a different mindset for the second half,” Thomas said. “We talk about it at halftime, put it into action and add more to it.”
Florida State (27-6) will face either second-seeded Oregon State or No. 7 seed Creighton in a regional semifinal game in Stockton, California on Saturday.
The Seminoles led 32-27 at halftime but put the game out of each by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter, which included four by Thomas. Nine of their 24 points in the quarter came off eight Missouri turnovers as they led 56-37 going into the fourth.
The Seminoles would be up by as many as 29 (66-37) after scoring the first 10 points of the fourth quarter.
“I feel like over the past couple games we are getting back to that mentality and style of the play that we had for much of the season,” said Leticia Romero, who was one of four FSU players in double figures with 14 points.
Brittany Brown added 16 points and Imani Wright scored 14 for Florida State, which shot 57.1 percent from the field for the first three quarters before finishing 24 of 52. They were strong from the perimeter the entire game, going 7 of 14 on 3-pointers.
Missouri (22-11) led 17-12 22 seconds into the second quarter on a Jordan Chavis 3-pointer before Florida State took the lead for good with a 17-2 run as Romero scored six points. The Tigers were held without a field goal for 7:12.
“There’s a different feel to the NCAA Tournament because there’s a lot of feeling out from teams in the first quarter. I was proud that we were able to weather that and then make adjustments,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. “When we had the run we said it was important to have another one.”
Missouri led the Southeastern Conference in 3-pointers but were 5 of 20, including missing its first seven. Sophie Cunningham scored 17 points and Cierra Porter added 12 for the Tigers, who were trying to get to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001.
“Florida State can go on runs and score a bunch of points in a hurry,” said Missouri coach Robin Pingeton. “We didn’t attack enough and missed some open shots. On defense they are very good. We never looked fluid on offense.”
MILESTONE FOR SEMRAU
Semrau, who is in her 20th season at Florida State, got her 400th career victory. She has 11 20-win seasons at the school, including the past five.
“It is very special to get that win for her,” said Brown, who is one of four seniors. “Coach Sue gives us the credit for all the wins but she has done so much for each and every one of us.”
Romero has scored in double figures in all nine NCAA Tournament games she has played in for Florida State and is averaging 14.4 points. … Missouri finishes the season shooting 80.2 percent from the free-throw line, which is a team and SEC record.
Missouri: The Tigers, who were ranked 25th in the final Associated Press poll, accomplished one milestone by winning NCAA Tournament games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. They will lose three starters due to graduation but will return first-team, All-SEC selection Cunningham along with Porter. They should be a factor again in the SEC after finishing third this season.
Florida State: The Seminoles, who are making their fifth appearance in the Sweet 16, are 3-0 in NCAA second-round games that have taken place at the Tucker Center. The previous two times — 2010 and ’15 — they would end up making it to the Elite Eight.
— Associated Press —