CHARLOTTESVILLE — The final score of Virginia’s victory over the nation’s ninth-ranked team in its ACC men’s basketball opener Saturday said nothing about the level of punishment administered by the fourth-ranked Cavaliers. Instead, consider the Seminoles' 18-2 run to end the game — which merely trimmed the final margin to 65-52.
Junior guard Kyle Guy scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 5 for 6 from beyond the arc. Waves of opportunistic defenders created what was a 21-0 advantage in points off turnovers with 94 seconds left in the game.
Virginia limited the Seminoles to 34 percent shooting to win their 11th consecutive ACC opener, including all 10 under Coach Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers improved to 13-0, their best start since 19-0 in 2014-15.
“We were locked in, and we were ready to play defensively,” Bennett said. “Our length, our slides, we contested stuff. Did they miss some shots? Yes. Were we perfect? No, but we said, ‘We were going to work,’ and I said at halftime, I said, ‘If you can, win this with your defense.’”
Another indicator of the dominance witnessed by an announced crowd of 14,623 at John Paul Jones Arena: The Seminoles reached the same point total for the game (42) with less than a minute to play that the Cavaliers had amassed by halftime.
“That’s the best team we’ve played,” Florida State Coach Leonard Hamilton said of Virginia. “It’s not even close.”
Reserve guard Braxton Key added 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting for Virginia, which committed just three turnovers in the first half in forging its first double-digit lead with 4:07 remaining until halftime.
It’s the most points Key, a junior, has scored since transferring to Virginia from Alabama this past offseason.
“It felt great,” Key said. “Like Kyle said, my teammates have confidence in me, and I have confidence in myself. Whenever I had any open look, I just tried to be a little bit more aggressive than normal, and shots were falling for me today.”
The lopsided margin for Virginia late in the game prompted Bennett to insert the last players on his bench, including a handful of walk-ons. The Seminoles (12-2), however, continued to deploy a press, collecting the final 10 cosmetic points off turnovers.
The Cavaliers opened the second half on a 7-3 run for a 49-26 lead that led to a timeout by Hamilton. Guy’s three-pointer to start the burst was his 11th in a row over two games, setting the school record for consecutive made shots from beyond the arc.
“They took advantage of every mistake we made, every shortcoming we had on the court because they’re so much aware of where they are offensively and defensively,” Hamilton said. “I think it’s the whole system that they use. They’re just all in sync, and we had very little answer for them today.”
Seeking to extend its school-record best start after 13 games entering Saturday, Florida State continued to work Phil Cofer back into the regular rotation as the versatile forward heals from a broken foot. The injury occurred during the final minutes of practice the afternoon before ACC basketball media day in October.
Cofer (team-high nine points) is the only member of the Seminoles’ roster to have started every game last season when Florida State, a No. 9 seed, advanced to the NCAA tournament’s region final in Los Angeles, losing to Michigan, 58-54. The redshirt senior was named to the all-West Region team.
Still, the only loss for Florida State before Saturday was to reigning national champion Villanova, 66-60, in the championship game of the AdvoCare Invitational in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., during Thanksgiving break.
A 15-2 kick to close the first half provided Virginia with a 42-23 lead heading into the locker room after the Seminoles had drawn within 27-21 on a pair of M.J. Walker free throws.
Key got the push started with a three-pointer from the top of the arc off an assist from Ty Jerome, who made just 1 of 7 field goal attempts in the first half. Key stole the ball on Florida State’s ensuing possession, and he was fouled driving to the basket.
After he and Mamadi Diakite each sank two foul shots, Guy made a pair of step-back three-pointers with the shot clock nearing expiration.
"The coaching and the players, my teammates, have the confidence in me,” said Guy, who has 51 points over the last two games. “It really gets me going. I think Ty does a great job and is a true servant, always trying to find me and get me going.
“He always tells me at every timeout like, ‘I’m getting ready to get you going and stuff,’ so I think that has a lot to do with it.”