FSU Basketball: Seminoles can overcome Miller’s injury

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Due to an ankle injury, Florida State may be without guard Ian Miller for some time. (Melina Vastola / USA TODAY Sports)

Others have to step up with Ian Miller out

After suffering an ankle injury in last Saturday’s 53-49 loss at home to Clemson, Florida State senior guard and leading scorer, Ian Miller, did not play in Wednesday’s 70-50 win over Virginia Tech. Though the Seminoles were without their senior guard, FSU actually played one of its more complete games of the season which should give Florida State much to feel good about as the season comes to a close.

There is no timetable for Miller’s return, but on Wednesday night, sophomore guard Aaron Thomas more than made up for his absence. Thomas finished with 24 points and was a stellar 6-for-8 from beyond the three-point arc.

Senior forward Okaro White added 15 points thanks largely to making all nine of his free throws. White also grabbed a team-high tying eight rebounds.

With the big efforts, Thomas and White were able to surpass Miller as the team’s top two leading scorers, but the players that will need to step up most in Miller’s absence will be a pair of sophomores guards — Devon Bookert and Montay Brandon. The two combined for 12 points the other night and 11 rebounds, but on just a combined 4-for-15 shooting.

Bookert is the only true point guard on the FSU roster and is a very good three-point shooter. Unlike Miller however, Bookert is a pass-first guard that prefers to get others involved rather than look for his own offense.

Like Miller, Brandon is a combo guard. Brandon began the 2012-13 season as the team’s starting point guard, but has played primarily the shooting guard and small forward positions this season. At 6’7″, Brandon handles the ball very well and in Miller’s absence, he will likely have to do it much more often.

While Miller’s 12.7 points-per-game and team-high 3.2 assists will be tough enough for Florida State to overcome, what the Seminoles may miss most about Miller is his play in the clutch. Miller has a history of making big shots.

Two years ago, Miller had a game-winner at Virginia and the three-pointer in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that put the Seminoles ahead for good in a win over St. Bonaventure. This season, Miller has hit big shots down the stretch in a loss to rival Florida and a victory over rival Miami. Miller’s runner in the lane with four seconds to play also propelled FSU to a 76-74 win over Notre Dame in its last victory prior to Wednesday night.

The more time that Miller misses, the more pressure that there will be on White as well as sophomore guards Thomas, Bookert and Brandon, but that also means more minutes to go around. It’s uncertain when Miller will return, but how the Seminoles play without him may very well determine whether or not FSU reaches the NCAA Tournament.

At 5-5 in conference and 14-8 overall, Florida State is squarely on the bubble. The upcoming stretch for FSU has three winnable games with contests against Maryland, Miami and Wake Forest. Two of those three games are on the road and it is unknown whether or not Miller will be able to contribute.

The next two weeks will be huge for Florida State and if one of its few senior leaders is unable to go, that hill gets a bit steeper. What should be encouraging to head coach Leonard Hamilton however, is the play of his team on Wednesday night in their first full game without Miller. It won’t be easy to overcome Miller’s absence, but FSU certainly has the talent to do it. Thomas and White must continue to play at a high level while Bookert and Brandon must become more efficient, perhaps even more assertive offensively.

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