Hot off a thrilling 60-57 victory against No. 17 Tennessee on Friday, the Florida State men’s basketball team beat Purdue 63-60 in overtime on Saturday night at The Arena in Niceville to claim the Emerald Coast Classic trophy.
NICEVILLE — With the patience of a cobra lulling its prey, Trent Forrest sized up Purdue’s Isaiah Thompson, waiting for his opening as the clock ticked away above him.
When the screen came, Florida State forward RaiQuan Gray rolling into position, Forrest struck, blowing past Thompson and into the teeth of the Boliermaker defense to convert the contested layup and tie Saturday’s Emerald Coast Classic championship game 58-58 with 24 seconds left in regulation.
The FSU fans in attendance at The Arena in Niceville roared as Forrest flexed, the Chipley alumnus providing the Seminoles’ scoring punch in a 63-60 overtime victory Saturday against Purdue.
"Trent’s given us tremendous leadership," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "He represents everything that you mean when you say ‘The Unconquered Spirit’ and ‘The Seminole Way.’
"He doesn’t have to command the respect of his teammates because they automatically respect him … We couldn’t have a better leader on our team."
Forrest didn’t score a point in overtime, but 11 of his game-high 17 points came in the second half, the 6-foot-4 senior notching two game-tying buckets in the final 2:15 of regulation in his return to the Emerald Coast.
"As long as we won, that’s all I cared about," Forrest said. "I had my family here, but it was never about me coming back home to try to play any different. As long as we won, I was fine."
Lo and behold, FSU (7-1 overall) was fine. The game tied at 60 in overtime, Gray knocked down a free-throw with 38.1 left before sophomore Devin Vassell came up with a defensive rebound and two more points at the charity stripe to seal the three-point win — FSU’s seventh straight — with a second left.
Vassell finished second on the team with 13 points, chipping in six rebounds, two blocks, two steals and an assist.
Matt Haarms, a 7-3 junior forward, finished as the Boilermakers’ leading scorer with 16 points and eight rebounds.
"These are the types of games that we need this early in the season to have a clear understanding of what it’s like to play at the highest level," Hamilton said. "Purdue’s a very good basketball team. They’re very well coached."
That didn’t stop FSU’s defense from forcing 16 steals and 24 turnovers, the Boilermakers (4-3) frustrated all night by the Seminoles’ press defense.
Shooting just 38% on the night, including a 1-for-17 mark from 3, that defense proved to be FSU’s saving grace. Purdue shot just 34% from the field and was held scoreless for almost three full minutes late in the second half as the Seminoles mounted an 8-0 run to take a 53-49 lead.
"They make it so hard for you to run offense," Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
The Boilermakers’ frustration showed on the court early, Purdue racking up nine first-half fouls that FSU made it pay for.
Leading 22-20 with 2:26 left, Purdue sent RaiQuan Gray, Trent Forest and Devin Vassell to the line on three straight possessions, and the trio connected on 5-of-6 to take a three-point lead, securing a 27-24 halftime advantage.
After topping No. 17 Tennessee 60-57 on Friday night, the Seminoles looked right at home in another tight contest, which proves they have potential to play with the better teams in the country despite their young age, Hamilton said.
"Everybody who played, I thought, mad a contribution and gave us a chance to win," he said. "Hopefully, we take this momentum into our next game against Indiana, which is probably gonna be a loud atmosphere, probably at the highest level and similar to what we faced here."