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'Noles, Cavs clash in Conference tilt

At the beginning of the season, Virginia and Florida State were picked to finish at the bottom of the Conference. Now finding themselves perched near the top of the ACC standings, the two teams square off tonight at 9 p.m. in University Hall.

The Cavaliers (13-5, 3-2 ACC) return to the hardwood only 48 hours after a hard-fought 71-66 win over Virginia Tech in overtime. Tonight's contest against the Seminoles (8-8, 3-2) is pivotal with a four-game road trip looming on the horizon.

Added to this is the increased parity in the Conference, which is exemplified by tonight's combatants. Picked in the preseason to finish seventh and eighth respectively, Virginia and Florida State now are tied for second.

"It's definitely going to be another war," Cav swingman Roger Mason said. "Every ACC game is a big game, especially this Florida State game. They're 3-2 [in the Conference] like us. We've got to get this win and just approach it like another big game."

Virginia is hoping to guard against complacency after an apparent breakthrough win last week against North Carolina. However, the Cavs then came out slow Monday and were unable to hold a lead midway through the second half, leading to a nail-biting victory over the Hokies.

"We're still a young team. We're not quite sure how to put teams away yet," Virginia Asst. Coach Tom Herrion said at yesterday's weekly coaches' teleconference. "We seem to be able to come out at halftime lately and make spurts, and now we've just got to sustain it through the course of the second half. It's something we've got to address, but it's hard to pinpoint a remedy for that. It's just the maturation process with our young team."

"We didn't want to let a North Carolina win be a loss to us," Mason said. "We had to follow that up with another win and get ready for the ACC play."

Mason has provided the Cavs with a steady scoring punch off the bench and again will be called on tonight for Virginia to prevail. The Silver Spring, Md., native played well down the stretch against Virginia Tech, nailing a shot that closed the gap to two near the end of regulation.

Florida State posted an impressive 76-71 win over North Carolina in the Dean Dome last Saturday, by far the 'Noles' biggest victory of the season.

Ron Hale, a 6-foot-8 forward, paces the Florida State team. Hale torched the Cavs twice last season for 19 points in each of the teams' two matchups. He teams with forward Damous Anderson to form a deadly one-two scoring punch. Anderson posted a career-high 25 points while leading the Seminoles upset over the Tar Heels and was named ACC Player of the Week for his efforts.

Last season the Cavs and Seminoles split the season series with each team prevailing on the other's home floor. In Virginia's win last year in Tallahassee, Donald Hand finished with a game-high 22 points, earning the Cavs' first road ACC victory of the season.