For the second time in three days, Virginia didn't play its best and still managed to hold off a supposedly overmatched opponent. Tonight the Cavaliers pulled out an 86-81 victory over Florida State before a University Hall crowd of 8,205.
Virginia shot 47.5 percent despite creating mostly open shots. It followed a 43.1-percent performance in Monday's 71-66 win against Virginia Tech. But regardless of the quality of play, tonight's victory gave the Cavaliers their first three-game Atlantic Coast Conference winning streak since the 1996-97 season. It also was the first time Virginia (14-5, 4-2) climbed two games over .500 in the ACC since the 1994-95 season.
However, this was the last home game before a four-game road trip.
"They [Seminoles] are better than their record," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said in reference to Florida State being 8-9, 3-3. "Monday night's win took a lot out of us. A lot of guys are playing banged up; it was a character-building win. We needed every ounce out of all of our players, including our bench."
The bench included Stephane Dondon, who had a career-high 14 points, and Majestic Mapp, who scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.
The Cavaliers held several five-point leads during the second half, but could never put away Florida State. The Seminoles' effective ball movement and the failure of Virginia's slashers to emerge allowed Florida State to take a 64-62 lead with 8 minutes 30 seconds left on forward Damous Anderson's 15-foot jumper. Anderson and swingman Ron Hale scored 19 and 26 points, respectively.
But over the next five minutes, the Cavaliers methodically pushed past the Seminoles, tying the game at 69 on a leaner by forward Chris Williams with 4:18 left. Then, capitalizing on defensive rebounds, Mapp keyed a 9-2 run.
The freshman point guard hit a long jumper with 3:45 left, then made a three-pointer off a steal by Dondon. Point guard Donald Hand hit two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 76-71 lead. After Hale's three-point play cut the lead to 76-74 with 2:21 left, Virginia forward Travis Watson sank a pair of free throws to make it 78-74, and then rebounded Seminoles point guard Delvon Arrington's missed three-point attempt.
Florida State started fouling, and Virginia responded, connecting on 8 of 10 free throws in the final minute, including 5 of 6 by Hand.
At the start of the game, Virginia appeared too quick for the Seminoles, taking a 20-12 lead on Williams's free throws. During a 15-3 run during a 4:30 stretch, the Cavaliers dominated the transition game. However, Hale's return after two early fouls helped spark a 29-16 Seminoles run that included a four-minute stretch in which the Cavaliers were held scoreless.
The Seminoles led, 41-35, before the Cavaliers reeled off a 11-4 run to take a 46-45 lead into the break. The spurt was sparked by four points from Dondon and capped with a 23-foot three-pointer from Hand as the buzzer sounded.
The Cavaliers' normal sources of instant offense--freshman forward Roger Mason and sophomore forwards Williams and Adam Hall--were largely absent. The trio usually offers the biggest matchup problems for Virginia's opponents because of their quickness and shooting ability, but was largely contained. Mason performed erratically in 13 minutes, Hall scored seven electrifying points but got into foul trouble, and Williams, the team's sophomore star, hit only one of his seven shots.
"I think we just caught them on a night where their shots just weren't falling," Florida State Coach Steve Robinson said. "We just played mostly man-to-man, a little zone."