FSU Basketball faces huge early season test tonight at No. 2 Purdue


Going on the road is never easy.

Going on the road without two of your starters makes matters even tougher.

And then going on the road to play the No. 2 team in the country, in its own gym, well that’s about as stiff a test as you can face this early in the season.

But that’s exactly what awaits the Florida State men’s basketball team tonight when it plays at No. 2 Purdue in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

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The Seminoles (5-1) will be without senior starting point guard RayQuan Evans, who is back in Montana to attend the funeral of his brother, Tye Oldelk Lafranier, who passed away last week from Leukemia.

Senior center Tanor Ngom, who has been battling injuries throughout the preseason, sprained his knee in practice earlier this week and will be out until at least late December. Backup center Naheem McLeod has also been ruled out with an ankle injury.

“Our thoughts are with RayQuan as he goes through this period of grieving with his family,” said FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. “Both Tanor and Naheem will work with our medical staff on a daily basis to return to the court when they are healthy.”

So, the Seminoles will be short-handed — and definitely shorter without the two 7-footers — as they take on the second-ranked Boilermakers tonight in Mackey Arena.

Purdue, which is currently 6-0, already has a 93-84 win over North Carolina and an 80-74 victory over Villanova on its early-season resume.

The Boilermakers are currently led in scoring by 7-4 sophomore center Zach Edey, who is averaging 17.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in less than 19 minutes per game.

Jaden Ivey, a 6-4 sophomore guard, averages 15 points per game, and Sasha Stefanovic and Trevion Williams are averaging 13.2 and 13.0 points, respectively. Stefanovic is a 6-5 senior guard, and Williams is a 6-10 senior forward.

Purdue currently ranks second nationally in scoring at 92.3 points per game, and the Boilermakers are winning games by an average of almost 30 points — though other than the UNC and Villanova contests, the other four were against the likes of Bellarmine, Indiana State, Wright State and Omaha.

Florida State is allowing opponents to score 63.0 points per game and shoot 38.5 percent from the field. Purdue ranks No. 3 nationally in field goal percentage at 53.7 percent.

FSU’s lone loss this season came at rival Florida, and the Seminoles have already seen some highs and lows with a new-look roster. In just the past 10 days, they dominated Missouri and Loyola Marymount to win the Jacksonville Classic, then needed to rally in overtime to knock off Boston University at home.

Senior forward Malik Osborne leads the Seminoles with 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while freshman Matthew Cleveland and Houston transfer Caleb Mills are averaging 10.8 and 10.5 points,, respectively.

The No. 2 ranking for the Boilermakers ties for the highest in school history. The last time they were ranked this high was March of 1988 — when Leonard Hamilton was a 39-year-old in his second year of leading the Oklahoma State program.

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