The No. 16 Virginia men's basketball team takes its three-game winning streak down to Tallahassee tomorrow afternoon to confront No. 21 Florida State in a conference game, which is essential to improving the Cavaliers' position in the ACC standings.
Virginia (18-3, 5-2 ACC) takes to the road having survived a scare at home earlier this week. The Cavaliers staved off a furious comeback attempt by Clemson Tuesday evening to win 65-61.
Despite leading by as many as 11 points during the second half, the Cavaliers allowed the Tigers to close the gap to just three points with less than one minute remaining.
Sophomore guard Joe Harris and senior forward Mike Scott carried the Cavaliers, scoring 42 of the team's 65 points.
"We enjoy[ed] this win, but Saturday's going to be even tougher," junior guard Jontel Evans said. "Those guys are knocking out big-time teams by double digits, so we have to come in there, be focused and play to the best of our ability."
After recovering from an injury which prematurely shut down his 2010-2011 season, Scott's stellar performances have earned him national attention. He hopes to continue this success against the Seminoles (15-6, 6-1 ACC), the third ranked opponent the Cavaliers have faced this season.
"The way [Scott] approaches these games, he's so focused mentally," Evans said. "Nobody can knock him off his game. He comes in well-prepared, getting shots up during the week. His focus is unbelievable."
Florida State is taking the ACC by storm this year. With only one conference loss, the Seminoles are currently tied with North Carolina at the top of the conference standings.
On the strength of its impressive in-conference performance, Florida State has overcome a shaky start to the season and has proven it deserved its position as the preseason pick to finish third in the ACC.
"They're a really strong team, so we have our work cut out for us," senior guard Sammy Zeglinski said. "They're nationally ranked as well, and we have to go down there so it's going to be a tough game."
Florida State does not rely on one elite player but instead functions as a well-rounded team. The Seminoles' top point-scorer is junior guard Michael Snaer, who averages 14.1 points per game. Senior forward Bernard James averages 2.2 blocks per game and 8.8 rebounds. He will pose a serious challenge on defense when he and Scott go head-to-head.
"They're athletic," Scott said. "They're long. They've got some good shooters, and they're very good defensively. It's definitely going to be a battle. We're two defensive teams, so that's what it's going to come down to: who's going to outlast the other."
Virginia is enjoying its best season in recent memory and has an even-record against teams in the top-25 with a 70-58 triumph against then-No. 14 Michigan in Dec. and a 61-58 loss to then-No. 8 Duke in January.
Virginia's success this year is promising, but players know things could still take a turn for the worse.
"I remember my first year, we were 5-2, and then things went all bad," Evans said. "You can't really dwell on the past."
Virginia's three losses this season were by a total of seven points. After having their last four games televised nationally, the Cavaliers will appear on the ACC Network tomorrow.
Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Tallahassee.