Florida State men's basketball falls short in gritty effort against No. 5 Purdue

The Florida State men’s basketball team had a lead over Purdue in the second half.

What seemed unthinkable coming into the game – the Boilermakers were 16-point betting favorites – turned into a reality with how gritty the Seminoles played.

FSU (1-8) eventually dropped its fourth straight game by a double-digit margin, falling 79-69 to No. 5 Purdue (7-0) in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center on Wednesday.

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But the Seminoles impressed for much of the game, which prompted Leonard Hamilton to express optimism in his postgame press conference.

“You will see us get better and better as we move through the remainder of the year,” Hamilton said. “As our guys get more and more experience. And understand how to play to each other, with each other and for each other.

“You will see us keep growing as long as our effort is what it was tonight, and we continue to improve on it.”

After trailing 47-46 with 14:42 remaining in the second half, Purdue used a 9-0 run to take its largest lead of the game at that time. The Boilermakers never trailed beyond that point, icing the game in the final minutes.

Here are three takeaways from the game.

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Florida State Seminoles guard Matthew Cleveland (35) guards Purdue Boilermakers guard Fletcher Loyer (2) as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida State Seminoles guard Matthew Cleveland (35) guards Purdue Boilermakers guard Fletcher Loyer (2) as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Inspiring performance from the Seminoles

No one expected the Seminoles to have much of a chance in this one.

Not only were they significantly underwhelming in their first eight games. Not only were they coming off three consecutive double-digit losses, falling to Siena (80-63), Stanford (70-60) and Nebraska (75-58) in the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando over the weekend.

But beyond FSU's poor play, Purdue also entered this game with a compelling case as the best team in the country.

The Boilermakers recorded convincing victories over then-No. 6 Gonzaga (84-66) and then-No. 8 Duke (75-56) over the weekend. Those wins earned them a 19-spot increase in the latest AP Poll and the third-most first place votes (eight).

Coaches normally don’t like to accept moral victories. Hamilton has to feel good, though, about how the Seminoles went toe to toe with a team that had been playing better than anyone.

“I never like to play as hard as we did and come out with a loss. But I think we just showed that we are growing up a little,” Hamilton said. “We are showing that we are adjusting mentally and emotionally to this level of play that we have to consistently have night in and night out in order for us to be successful. …

“This team has had a hard time adjusting. But I think tonight, they took a step in the right direction.”

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Florida State Seminoles guard Caleb Mills (4) goes in for a shot as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida State Seminoles guard Caleb Mills (4) goes in for a shot as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Zach Edey took over

Purdue center Zach Edey lived up to the hype.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, who is the tallest player in Big Ten history, entered the game averaging 21.7 points (ninth), 12 rebounds (4th) and 2.33 blocks (21st) while tying for the second-most double-doubles (five) in the country.

Through the first eight minutes of the game, FSU kept Edey from recording a statistic. The Seminoles clearly looked to make him fight for everything, denying the ball and doubling him in the post at times. But Edey eventually found his rhythm, ending the first half with 15 points (6-of-8 shooting), five rebounds and a block.

Overall, Edey recorded a game-high 25 points (11-of-14 shooting), eight rebounds and a block. He gave life to a Boilermaker offense that struggled in various stretches of the game.

“We had a hard time stopping the big fella inside,” Hamilton said.” We had no intention of letting him catch the ball that deep in there, shooting those jump hooks. But he’s a handful.in there. To keep the ball away from him – they do a very good job with getting the ball to him.”

Florida State Seminoles guard Matthew Cleveland (35) shoots as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.
Florida State Seminoles guard Matthew Cleveland (35) shoots as the Seminoles face the Purdue Boilermakers on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022 at Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Darin Green Jr., Matthew Cleveland impressed for the Seminoles

FSU guards Darin Green Jr. and Matthew Cleveland might have had their best performances of the season.

Green finished with a team-high 23 points, shooting 7 of 12 from the floor and 4 of 7 from three-point range. The first-year transfer from UCF came one point away from matching his season-high and four points from his career-high.

Cleveland seemed to be more aggressive, tallying a season-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting (1 of 1 from three-point range) while grabbing six rebounds.

“Matthew settled in,” Hamilton said. “We have been challenging him to play with confidence. Tonight, the game slowed down for him a little bit. He played within himself. He got around the free throw line, and that is where he is the most effective.

“We told him before the game, ‘If you are open on uncontested threes, shoot them.’ And he made one in a critical part of the game.”

Up Next

FSU will next have its first ACC game of the season, facing No. 3 Virginia (6-0) on the road at 2 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN2).

Reach Carter Karels at ckarels@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter @CarterKarels. You can also follow our coverage on Facebook (NoleSports) and Instagram (tlhnolesports).

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FSU basketball: Seminoles fall short in loss to Purdue Boilermakers