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Florida State takes down Notre Dame behind dominant first half

Matthew Cleveland continues to make Florida State history

The Florida State Seminoles were in South Bend for an early week matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. This is the second and final game of the season series between the two after the Seminoles escaped with a narrow win in Tallahassee about a month ago. After the best start of the season by the Noles, they closed the game with an 84-71 victory.


Player of the game: Matthew Cleveland secured his eighth-straight double-double, becoming the first Florida State Seminole to achieve that feat since Reggie Royals, 52 years ago. Cleveland tallied 14 points and 15 rebounds, notching 10 first-half boards.

The Noles started off steaming hot against the Fighting Irish, grabbing a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game. It was by far their best start to a game this season, having a sense of urgency to share the ball on offense and carrying the necessary aggressiveness on defense to give them early opportunities.

Notre Dame called a timeout to try and break the run from Florida State, but a three-ball from Darin Green Jr. put that to sleep. ND scored their first basket at the 15:55 mark of the first half, knocking down two free throws. They followed that with their first field goal after the Noles checked in Miller and DeAnte Green.

After Notre Dame started the game 0-7 from the field, they scored back-to-back buckets, but Green was feeling it from distance. After Green started 3-4 from three, he was replaced by Chandler Jackson. With 13:08 remaining, Florida State led 24-8. The Noles began the game 11-14 from the field and 4-7 from beyond the arc.

The Seminoles were simply connected on both sides of the ball, with the best on-court communication they’ve displayed all season. They were switching and getting to the ball on defense with intensity and found open shots with quality ball movement on offense.

While the momentum was slowly falling out of FSU’s hands, due to Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone, the Irish were still unable to find any rhythm on offense. Darin Green started the game with 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the first half. After ND hit their first three of the contest, they were able to gain confidence and get their crowd back in the game.

Another three from the Irish helped them creep back from a 24-point deficit, cutting Florida State’s lead to 34-20 with 7:57 left in the half. The heavy 2-3 zone was an issue for FSU later in the half, forcing a three-minute scoring drought from the Seminoles. They carried a 35-24 lead with 4:46 remaining, scoring just one of their last nine field goals up to that point.

The double-digit lead was lost after Notre Dame scored two straight shots, down 37-29 with 1:42 left in the first half. Florida State was rattled by the zone from ND, and the turnovers they were able to force led to opportunities inside the paint on the other end.

Notre Dame was down 32-8, looking like they were walking into a blowout loss at home, but a 21-5 run pushed them right back into the game. Florida State headed into the locker room with a 39-29 lead, going 2-12 in the final 10 minutes of the first half.

FSU was shooting 33% from distance and 45% from the field, carrying a hefty 23-15 rebounding advantage. They were phenomenal in the assist category, but they had only forced one turnover from Notre Dame in the half.

Second half

Notre Dame’s J.J. Starling scored a bucket in the first couple of seconds of the second half and Matthew Cleveland hit him right back with a made shot. Both teams were relatively cold after scoring a couple of baskets in the first minute. The Noles led 47-36 with 15:55 left in the game after a three-ball from Jalen Warley.

At the first timeout of the second half, Florida State had a 15-point lead, getting right back into their offensive streak. Cleveland secured his eighth-straight double-double after a three from a Caleb Mills dish out. The Noles were back up by 20 points with just under 14 minutes remaining in the second half.

The Fighting Irish had a chance to cut the lead and get back in to challenge the Seminoles, but they were shooting 1-8 from the field, while the Noles found success on offense. ND’s chance was slipping away as they hit the under-10-minute mark down by 22 points.

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton elected to call a timeout with 7:30 remaining to give the Noles a breath of air and slow them down as they held a strong lead. They may have come out too dreary after Notre Dame scored seven straight points to cut the deficit down to 67-55. The Fighting Irish were in the midst of a 13-1 run, making the Noles a bit antsy late in the game.

The Seminoles were lost having to face the eagerness of a Notre Dame team that needed a conference win as desperately as themselves. With 3:36 left in the game, Florida State led 67-57, with a 9-0 from the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame chipped away at the scoreboard to get within single digits, making every Nole fan sweat. With two minutes remaining Florida State led 70-61. It seemed like the game was in the Fighting Irish’s hands, but the lead was too large to come back from. ND played the foul game, and constantly put the ball in the bottom of the net from three-point land.

Despite the Fighting Irish’s hack-a-Warley late in the game, the Noles escaped with the win on the road.

Next game: The Seminoles travel to Pennsylvania to play the Pittsburgh Panthers on Saturday at 3:00 ET. Pitt currently has an 87.5% chance to win the game, according to ESPN Analytics. The game will be featured on the ACCN.