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Cavaliers fall to struggling Seminoles

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Although it came down to the wire, the Virginia men's basketball team just couldn't execute. Missed rebounds and turnovers plagued the team throughout the game, and as a result, unranked Florida State ran away with a 66-59 upset victory over No. 22 Virginia at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center last night.

With the loss, Virginia (16-8, 6-7 ACC) watched its hopes of receiving an invitation to the NCAA tournament grow dimmer, along with its optimism for any more regular season wins. The Cavaliers have lost six out of their last eight games, coming out on top only over unspectacular conference foes Clemson and North Carolina. On the other hand, Florida State (11-13, 4-9) earned its first win in seven games.

Virginia's mistakes didn't help its cause. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 18 times, 11 times in the first half. The Seminoles were able to capitalize for 28 points off of turnovers.

"I thought what hurt us were turnovers in the first half," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "In the second half I thought we took care of the ball better, but in the last four or five minutes we had some key turnovers."

"We had a couple of bad turnovers and it's tough to do that on the road against a solid team," Virginia guard Roger Mason Jr. said.

Virginia also was held hostage by the inside presence of Florida State big man Nigel Dixon. Dixon, who averages 4.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also managed to completely shut down Virginia center Travis Watson, who fouled out with just over five minutes remaining. Watson put up just five points and three rebounds.

Dixon "hurt us," Gillen said. "He was very physical, he got away with a lot. You've got to adjust to that. It's difficult."

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  • Gillen emphasized, however, that it was really in the second half that Dixon hurt the Cavaliers. He said that in the first half Florida State guard Monte Cummings was Virginia's biggest threat.

    Cummings finished with a game-high 21 points, 15 of which he scored in the first half.

    Gillen also stressed that Virginia's defense improved in last night's game, especially following its poor performance and 20-point loss against Wake Forest on Sunday.

    "I thought our defense was good," Gillen said. "It was good enough to win. But our turnovers and offensive execution" were the problem.

    The defense was "a little bit better because we didn't lose by 20, but we still lost,"Mason said. "The defense failed because we lost."

    Neither Virginia nor Florida State ever took a commanding lead throughout the game, and with 3:14 remaining, the score was tied at 56. A dunk by Dixon stirred up the crowd, and two fouls quickly put the Seminoles up, 61-56. Then, a missed three-pointer by Mason was rebounded by Cummings and dished to Seminoleguard Delvon Arrington. Arrington ran away for a lay-up with 1:03 left to make the score 63-56, and from there Virginia never recovered.

    Mason sunk one more three-pointer (his fourth of the night), but ultimately Virginia did not come together for a win.

    "We played hard and we wanted to come down here and get a win," Mason said. "We're frustrated"

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