No. 19 Purdue, No. 15 Florida State square off in ACC-Big Ten Challenge
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- No. 19 Purdue and No. 15 Florida State started out the season red-hot, running their records to 4-0 and 5-0, respectively, before either program lost a game.
But with the zeros now gone -- the Boilermakers (5-1) fell to No. 13 Virginia Tech last week, while the Seminoles (5-1) lost to No. 23 Villanova in the finals of the AdvoCare Invitational on Sunday -- both teams look to get back to their winning ways Wednesday night in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
And Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton knows this non-conference, Top 25 duel will be anything but easy.
"They're similar, in many ways, to Villanova in terms of the culture they've built, the system that they utilize. They're loaded with talent and they're very well-coached," Hamilton said of the Boilermakers, who rebounded from their lone defeat of the season with an 84-46 rout of Robert Morris last Friday. "They're not going to beat themselves."
Florida State nearly beat the defending NCAA National Champion Wildcats two days ago in Orlando, where the Seminoles plowed through the field with wins against Canisius, UAB and No. 19 LSU (in overtime) en route to the title game. But despite rallying from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes to pull within two points three times, Villanova prevailed 66-60 to hand Florida State its first loss of the year.
"(Villanova) did a much better job of playing to their strengths than we did ours," said Hamilton, who added he did see one big positive, even in the defeat: "I thought our guys gave good effort. I think that we're a team that has a chance to develop into a pretty good basketball team."
Florida State certainly has the depth to be good. Maybe great.
The Seminoles have three players averaging double figures, and three more who are scoring at least 7.5 points per game. Forward Terance Mann leads the way at 12.8 points and a team-best seven rebounds per game, followed by fellow forward Mfiondu Kabengele (11.8) and guard Trent Forrest (10.0). But not far behind that trio are guards MJ Walker (9.2) and PJ Savoy (8.5), as well as center Christ Koumadje (7.5), who stands a towering 7 feet, 4 inches tall and leads the team with eight blocks through six games.
Purdue, however, has plenty of playmakers too.
Like Florida State, the Boilermakers also have three players averaging double digits, led by one of the highest-scoring players in the country: guard Carsen Edwards, who is averaging an eye-popping 25.3 points a game. Edwards, a junior, is currently the ninth-leading scorer in Division I, and he's coming off a 19-point output in his team's last game against Robert Morris.
Edwards has lots of help with guard Ryan Cline (14.3 ppg) and forward Evan Boudreaux (11.2 ppg) enjoying hot starts to the season as well. All three players are also averaging above 40 percent from the 3-point line too. In fact, Purdue ranks in the nation's Top 25 in 3-pointers per game (5th), rebound margin (14th) and scoring margin (25th). Purdue also ranks 28th in scoring offense (85.3).
Head coach Matt Painter sees this as a pretty even matchup, but he'd sure like to score a win for the Big Ten in the annual challenge.
"(Florida State) is very good defensively, very good offensively at driving the basketball and putting you in tough binds," Painter said. "It's important (for us) to be able to execute on the offensive end and then set our defense on the other end. The more you do that, the more you eliminate (Florida State's strengths). We need our experienced players to set the tone."
After arguably Purdue's biggest early season test thus far Wednesday, the schedule doesn't get any easier. They open play in the Big Ten on Saturday at No. 7 Michigan, followed by a home game with No. 24 Maryland next Thursday and then a road test at No. 17 Texas the following Sunday.
"All the teams are very well-coached and play well," Purdue senior forward Grady Eifert told the Journal & Courier. "We're going to have to bring it every game. The big thing is taking one step at a time, not looking at the whole stretch."
Florida State's stretch of games won't be as tough as Purdue's after Wednesday, but they won't be a cake walk either before opening Atlantic Coast Conference play Jan. 5 against No. 4 Virginia. Between now and then, they'll face UConn, St. Louis and always-tough mid-major Winthrop.
Purdue and Florida State have met just twice, including once before in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. The Seminoles, who lead the all-time series 2-0, hammered the Boilermakers their last time out -- a 97-57 victory in the Challenge on Dec. 29, 2005, in Tallahassee. Before that, the only other meeting came in the 1974-75 season, which ended with a 69-66 Seminoles win in the first round of the Holiday Classic in Louisville, Ky.
Updated November 28, 2018