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Cleveland rocks: Freshman saves FSU with basket, steal in OT win

Playing its third game in four days, and playing shorthanded, Florida State fought off a comeback bid from Boston University — and overtime — to go into the Thanksgiving break 5-1.

Matthew Cleveland had a put-back basket off a Caleb Mills miss with 2.1 seconds left in overtime as the Seminoles snuck out an 81-80 win over the Terriers, who were rated No. 162 in Division I by KenPom but gave the Seminoles a fight to the finish on Wednesday night.

Cleveland stole the three-quarters-court inbounds pass and scored a season-best 17 points on 8 of 15 shooting, with 14 points coming in the second half or overtime. The freshman also had seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. 

“There’s no doubt that Matthew represents the kind of freshman that seems to come into our system, fits who we are and is able to to do,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “He’s an extremely confidence youngster … He hit some timely shots. His defense is growing better.”

FSU now has won an astounding 12 straight overtime games, which is a national record.

BU (4-3) rallied late in the second half from an eight-point deficit with 48 seconds left. After Anthony Polite missed a free-throw attempt with five seconds to go in regulation, Anthony Morales then launched a 3-pointer as time expired to tie it at 71.

Mills had 17 points, five assists and five steals, while Malik Osborne added eight of his 10 points in the second half. Osborne also had seven rebounds.

Cam’Ron Fletcher added 11 first-half points off the bench. Fletcher contributed some significant production in the first half as Osborne (six minutes) and Tanor Ngom (five minutes) sat with two fouls. Walk-on Harrison Prieto also filled in early, scoring four points in eight minutes.

FSU was playing its third game in four nights following a pair of wins, on Sunday over Loyola Marymount and Monday against Missouri. While those two were quite comfortable wins — by 28 points and then by 23 points — this one went down to the wire. And then some.

“This was a grinder,” Hamilton said.

The Seminoles had 12 steals and produced 26 points off turnovers.

BU guard Javante McCoy, who was named the Patriot League preseason player of the year, had 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting. Forward Sukhmail Mathon had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Terriers, who shot 27 of 56 (48.2 percent) from the floor.

FSU shot 30 of 63 (47.6 percent) from the floor and 6 of 15 (40 percent) from 3-point range. There were a few missed free throws late, but the Seminoles finished 15 of 20 (75 percent) from the line.

Jalen Warley scored three points and had two assists in his first college start. 

Heavy heart

RayQuan Evans was courtside with the team but did not warm up or play. The senior guard lost his brother, Tye Oldelk Lafrainer, on Sunday at the age of 27. A GoFundMe has been set up to help support Evans’ family.

Injury update

Hamilton said center Naheem McLeod turned his ankle in warmups, and Tanor Ngom strained a muscle in Wednesday’s game. Ngom played eight minutes against BU.

Overtime streak

Hamilton shared the praise with his staff for FSU’s success in overtime games.

“I think you have to give credit to the staff, that gives confidence to kids that they can win close games,” Hamilton said. “The formations that we get in to get the ball inbounds. The way you handle the press in critical situations really made a difference. It has given us an opportunity to set the national record. Our staff does a good job of preparing these kids for these moments.”

Box score

The FSU-Boston University box score can be viewed here.

Up Next

FSU plays at Purdue on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. (ESPN) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Seminoles’ next home game is the ACC opener against Syracuse on Dec. 4 at 4 p.m.

The Noles rush to celebrate with Matthew Cleveland after Wednesday’s win. (photo by Mike Olivella)