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Cavaliers knock off Seminoles, 86-81

In a matchup of two surprisingly top-ranked ACC teams, Virginia took control during the final five minutes of last night's game in University Hall, earning a 86-81 victory over the Seminoles.

Clutch foul shooting, intense defense and timely scoring allowed the Cavaliers to win their fourth Conference game, matching last season's ACC victory total.

Donald Hand scored a game-high 28 points for Virginia (14-5, 4-2 ACC) while junior college transfer Stephane Dondon had a breakthrough game, coming off the bench and tallying 14 points on five of six from the floor.

"Coach has been telling me to just relax and play my game, and it did happen" last night, Dondon said.

Florida State (8-9, 3-3) led with just under five minutes remaining after Ron Hale, who posted 26 points and eight rebounds, gave the Seminoles a 69-67 lead. Cav forward Chris Williams quickly made his first field goal of the night on a finger roll layup, knotting the score.

From there the Cavs never lost the lead.

"We beat a very good basketball team," Virginia Coach Pete Gillen said. "They are a lot better team than their record."

Majestic Mapp, Cavalier first year and a Bronx native, converted two straight shots, including a trey to stretch the lead to 74-69.

"Majestic was tremendous in the second half, hitting threes, playing very good defense, playing with emotion," Gillen said.

Seminole swingman Antwuan Dixon nailed a jumper coming off a Florida State timeout to close the gap to three. Hand then knocked down two foul shots and the crowd came to its feet -- but Hale quickly came out and hit a shot.

Virginia's Travis Watson -- who was nursing an ankle injury while managing 13 points in 32 minutes -- was having a difficult night at the line, but still made two free throws when they counted.

Watson then rebounded a missed three-pointer from Florida State point guard Delvon Arrington and gave the ball to Hand, who was fouled and converted his shots, widening the margin to 80-74 with 50 seconds remaining.

On the next Virginia possession, Mapp was fouled as he drove to the bucket. Coming into the game Mapp was shooting 34.4 percent from the charity stripe but last night was able to knock down two in the clutch.

Hand then broke the Seminole press and hit three out of four foul shots as the Cavs held on for a hard-fought victory.

"It was a character win, we gave it every ounce of energy we could," Gillen said. "Our bench with Stephane and Majestic was tremendous."

But playing in an overtime game Monday night took its toll on some of the Cavaliers. Williams and Roger Mason, who each played big roles in the Cavs win over Virginia Tech, had tough games last night. But Mapp and Dondon, who were both in last night's game for the final two minutes, managed to pick up the slack. Mapp teamed with Hand to hold Arrington to eight points on 3-of- 14 shooting.

The crowd gathered in University Hall was boisterous during the final five minutes of the game, giving the Cavaliers momentum and forcing the Seminoles into late mistakes.

"The crowd kept us going and got them a little unraveled," Gillen said.

The Cavs now embark on a murderous four-game road trip after winning 10 of their previous 12 games.

"We have to win every home game this year because it is difficult to win on the road," Dondon said.