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Mills early, Cleveland late as FSU holds off Louisville

One of Florida State’s best first halves of the season was followed by an ugly second half.

But the Seminoles maintained the lead late and hit three straight shots down the stretch to hold off Louisville.

Caleb Mills tied a career-high with 27 points — including 23 in the first half — while Matthew Cleveland hit a 3-pointer and had a thunderous two-handed dunk in the final two minutes as FSU knocked off Louisville 79-70, the Seminoles’ fifth straight win over the Cardinals.

Mills shot 9 of 16 from the floor, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line. The Houston transfer added four rebounds in his best game since dropping 27 against Tulsa in Feb. 2020.

Matthew Cleveland tied his season-high with 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting and the freshman added five rebounds for FSU (8-5, 2-2 ACC).

FSU handed Louisville (10-5, 4-1) its first ACC loss but not without some drama in a disjointed second half. The Seminoles led by 54-40 with 16:21 left but they went ice cold and made just 3 of 16 shots from the floor to open the second half.

While it was uncomfortable to watch, and even missed free-throw attempts piled up, FSU made enough shots in the final few minutes. Cleveland’s 3-pointer with 1:59 to go put FSU up 72-63 and all but secured the win.

Mills surpassed his season-high with 23 points by halftime. He hit 8 of 12 shots from the floor, 3 of 5 from 3-point range and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line.

FSU won on a night when the veterans did little on the offensive end of the court. Malik Osborne had six points on 1 of 6 shooting. Anthony Polite had eight points on 2 of 7 shooting. Wyatt Wilkes had six points on 2 of 7 shooting. Rayquan Evans did not score on 0 of 4 shooting.

Naheem McLeod had five points, two rebounds and a block in 16 minutes.

FSU won despite shooting 17 of 28 (60.7 percent) from the free-throw line.

FSU shot 19 of 36 (52.8 percent) from the floor in the first half, including 7 of 16 (43.8 percent) from 3-point range. It was a different story for much of the second half, in which FSU finished 8 of 23 (34.8 percent) from the floor and 1 of 7 (14.3 percent) from 3-point range.

El Ellis, who played at Tallahassee Community College, had seven points in the first half for Louisville and finished with 14 points on 5 of 12 shooting.

FSU did secure its biggest win of the season, knocking off Louisville — which was No. 58 in the KenPom.com rankings going in to Saturday’s game.

Up next

FSU plays host to Miami on Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ACC Network).