The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, November 30, 2021 1:00 am

ACC/Big Ten Challenge

Seminoles present big challenge to Boilers

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Purdue basketball enjoyed a historic Monday, ascending to No. 2 in the AP poll, its highest ranking since March 1988, and garnering nine votes for the top spot.

The Boilermakers (6-0) have earned that lofty ranking with a combination of hard-fought victories over elite programs such as North Carolina and Villanova and dismantlings of overmatched opponents such as Omaha, who the Boilers ripped apart in a 97-40 triumph Sunday.

Tonight's matchup, against Florida State (5-1) at Mackey Arena in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, is much closer to the former. The Seminoles have lost only to now-No. 14 Florida and are coming off a third Sweet 16 appearance in the last four years. 

The Boilermakers have grown familiar with coach Leonard Hamilton's program in recent years after facing – and losing to – it in a Challenge game in 2018-19 and in the Emerald Coast Classic final in 2019-20.

“They seem to always have the same toughness, same mentality on the defensive end,” Purdue guard Sasha Stefanovic said of Florida State. “They really get into you, make your catches hard, just trying to make you take bad shots and take you out of what you do.”

No one has really been able to take Purdue out of what it does this season, mostly because the Boilermakers do so much. They have an extremely complex playbook – center Trevion Williams noted the Boilers might have more plays than anyone in the country – and this year they have the talent to run a wide array of those sets.

Purdue has melded elite interior play with Williams and Zach Edey with Jaden Ivey's nop-notch slashing ability and transition creativity and high-level outside shooting from almost everyone else to balance the floor.

The result has been a Boilermaker offense firing on all cylinders, ranking No. 2 in the country in Ken Pomeroy's offensive efficiency and also in the top 5 in points and field goal percentage.

Florida State's job will be even more difficult because the Seminoles will be without starting point guard RayQuan Evans (attending brother's funeral), starting center Tanor Ngom (right knee strain) and reserve center Naheem McLeod (ankle sprain) tonight. 

Ngom and McLeod are 7-footers and would have made life difficult for Williams and Edey, but the Seminoles still have plenty of size, led by 7-foot-1 John Butler and 6-9 Malik Osborne, to throw at Purdue's center pairing, which is averaging 30.7 points and 15.4 rebounds in 35 minutes per contest. 

“These are the games we look forward to,” Williams said. “There will be bigger bodies, we'll be able to be more physical. When you play a smaller team, you have to worry about calls, guys flopping, stuff like that. It'll be a good game for us. We prepare for games like this.”


vs. Florida State

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Mackey Arena, West Lafayette

Records: No. 2 Purdue (6-0), Florida State (5-1)


Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM

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