No. 7 Virginia men’s basketball were defeated by No. 16 Florida State 81-60 Monday night in Tallahassee, Fla. The Cavaliers (15-4, 11-2 ACC) fell behind by double digits quickly, and despite drawing close early in the second half, the Seminoles (12-3, 8-2 ACC) surged back ahead and completed the drubbing.
After two early three-pointers from junior guard Trey Murphy and senior forward Sam Hauser, Florida State used a 14-0 run to take a 16-6 advantage with 12:26 left in the half. Senior guard Tomas Woldetensae, who has received increased playing time in recent games, ended the 5:40 scoring drought for Virginia with a three-pointer.
However, the Seminoles continued to pick apart the Cavalier defense while shutting down Virginia on the other end. Sophomore guard Casey Morsell’s layup with 9:02 left in the half was only the Cavalier’s fourth bucket of the game and the first from inside the three-point arc.
Following back-to-back three-pointers from senior guard M.J. Walker, Coach Tony Bennett was forced to take a timeout, down 28-11. Florida State extended the lead to 20 points on Walker’s third three-pointer with 6:15 remaining in the half.
The Cavaliers finally started to find an offensive rhythm — with Woldetensae adding another three-pointer — but Virginia failed to string together solid defensive play, and the Seminoles took a dominant 45-25 lead into the break.
Eight players entered the scoring column for Florida State in the opening half, with Walker and junior forward RaiQuan Gray leading the way with nine points each. As a team, the Seminoles shot 53.3 percent from the floor.
Virginia shot a respectable 43.5 percent, but eight turnovers and being outrebounded 17-10 led the Cavaliers to one of their worst halves of the year. Further, five combined points from Hauser and senior forward Jay Huff on only four total shots is not a recipe for offensive success.
Virginia came out much more aggressively to open the second half. Junior guard Kihei Clark added eight early points, and Hauser drilled a three-pointer as the Cavaliers cut the deficit to 12 points with 15:50 left in the game.
On the defensive end, Virginia played more like its typical self, holding the Seminoles to just one bucket in the first six minutes of the half. The Cavaliers closed the lead all the way to seven points on a three-pointer from Murphy, but Florida State seemingly shut the door on a miraculous comeback with a 10-2 run, swelling the lead to 58-43.
The Seminoles once again made it a rout, finishing off a 17-0 run to take a 25-point advantage with 8:27 left in the game. From there, Florida State coasted to a dominant 81-60 victory.
“If you want a chance to beat a team of this caliber … you can’t be sometimes-really-good defensively,” Bennett said. “You gotta be all-the-time good.”
The game was only the second time this season the Cavaliers allowed more than 70 points — with Gonzaga pouring in 98 before conference play began. The Seminoles nailed 13 three-pointers and shot 50 percent from the floor.
Virginia committed an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers and allowed 21 points off those turnovers. The Cavaliers did have four players reach double-figure scoring, with Murphy leading the way with 13 points. Murphy, Clark, Hauser and Woldetensae combined for 48 of Virginia’s 60 points.
“You may not win, but you got to eliminate losing,” Bennett said. “Be an ‘A’ in transition defense and defensive rebounding and position, and we weren’t that.”
With the win, the Florida State drew closer to Virginia in the ACC standings. The Seminoles are now tied with the Cavaliers in the loss column despite having played three less conference games due to postponed matchups. Furthermore, if the two teams end up tied atop the standings at the end of the season, Florida State will own the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Virginia will look to bounce back against a struggling Duke team Saturday in Durham N.C. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.