TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Seminoles.com) – Leonard Hamilton has just about had his fill of all these late-game rallies.
Still, there’s no denying that his Florida State basketball team is awfully good at them.
For the second time in three games, the 15th-ranked Seminoles rallied from a three-score deficit with less than four minutes to play, this time topping No. 19 Purdue, 73-72, at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Just five days ago, FSU trailed LSU by nine in the game’s waning minutes before forcing overtime and emerging with a victory.
“Philosophically, that sounds good,” Hamilton said. “But, in reality, coaches don’t want to wait until the game is on the line to start making plays to win. That’s who we are right now.”
FSU junior Trent Forrest made the plays that led to the Seminoles’ latest escape.
In the span of just 16 seconds, Forrest flashed three different aspects of the versatility that has made him perhaps the most well-rounded player on FSU’s roster.
First, with the Seminoles trailing 72-71, Forrest tied up Purdue’s Ryan Cline and forced a jump ball with the possession arrow going FSU’s way.
Then, following a timeout, Forrest drove into the lane, pulled up and made a short floater that gave the Seminoles their first lead in more than 13 minutes.
Finally, Forrest made a perfect read on Purdue’s final desperation play, intercepting a cross-court pass that sealed the Seminoles’ sixth victory of the season.
“In games like these, I want to be able to affect it in whatever way I can,” Forrest said. “Whether it’s playing defense or scoring or whatever. Just making the right plays.”
By the time it was over, the Seminoles had completed a comeback from a 72-64 deficit at the 3:43 mark. They closed the game on a 9-0 run and, in the process, salvaged a split for their conference in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
“The last six or seven minutes, I thought our defense tightened up a little,” Hamilton said. “And we made some plays down the stretch there and were able to pull out a victory against a very, very good basketball team.”
Then again, at halftime there wasn’t much indication that the Seminoles would even break a sweat, much less need a dramatic rally.
After a slow start, FSU dominated the last 15 minutes of the first half, shooting 46.9 percent from the field on the way to a 44-32 lead at the break.
Purdue, however, responded in kind – and quickly.
Spurred by a torrid second-half effort from the perimeter, the Boilermakers needed only a little more than six minutes to erase their 12-point deficit and reclaim the lead.
Purdue made seven of its first eight 3-point attempts in the second half and equaled its 32-point output in the first frame by the 9:44 mark of the second.
“I said all along that I thought this team would challenge all our defensive principles,” Hamilton said. “They made some adjustments, they moved the ball a little better and they shot a phenomenal percentage from the perimeter.
“And that’s what they do. That’s their strength.”
Indeed, Purdue’s Cline made 7 of 11 from distance, while All-America candidate Carsen Edwards added three more as part of his game-high 24 points.
And as the Boilermakers continued to build their lead – and as FSU labored through a scoring drought of more than four minutes – things seemed to be trending in the wrong direction.
But Florida State took advantage of a series of Purdue miscues to stem the tide and set the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
Among them were four Purdue turnovers and two missed free throws from Edwards, who came into the game shooting 92 percent from the line.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, made five consecutive free throws down the stretch, including two from M.J. Walker that trimmed FSU’s deficit to one point.
“I’m appreciative,” Hamilton said, “that they made a few mistakes and missed some big free throws down the stretch … that maybe they normally make.”
Walker led Florida State with 13 points, while Forrest, Terance Mann, PJ Savoy and David Nichols all finished with nine.
“Even when we’re down, we know who we are,” Walker said. “We continued to fight back and we won the game.”
After completing a stretch of four games in seven days, the Seminoles will enjoy a short break before hosting Troy on Monday (8 p.m., RSN).