Joe Harris and the Hoos dropped another game in Florida.
Maybe it can be blamed on the location – the Virginia men’s basketball team has dropped 14 straight games in Florida after all. Truthfully, however, the Cavaliers’ 63-56 loss at Florida State did not come out of some Bermuda Triangle style curse. No, the story still focuses on themes from this frustrating ACC season – plenty of effort, but not enough post depth, not enough experience, and not enough consistency with shooting or defense.
In the end, FSU made 44.7% of its shots and won the rebounding battle 40-29. The Seminoles added 6 blocks and 6 steals with a defensive effort that forced Virginia to take tough jump shots almost exclusively. UVa made just31.7% of its shots on the afternoon. The Hoos trailed by as many 16 points before a strong comeback effort fell short.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network that his team battled with the Noles, but it wasn’t enough to get a win.
“We got down by 16 points with about 14.5 [minutes to play] and I told the guys that we cannot stray from a defensive mindset. Then I thought we rallied a little bit, we got tougher, and made some plays,” Bennett said. “They battled and scrapped hard and executed, but it just wasn’t enough.”
The Seminoles started to take control late in the first half after trailing by as many as seven points. After FSU pushed the game to a 21-21 tie, it uncorked a 3-point barrage to surge ahead. Deividas Dulkys hit a pair of triples from nearly the same spot, the first off of good ball rotation following a Pack-Line post trap from UVa and the second stemming out of a high screen-and-roll situation. Michael Snaer hit a 3-pointer in between the two shots from Dulkys and the 9-0 burst in just 1:11 helped carry the hosts to a 34-23 lead at intermission.
All of the late-half damage by Florida State came without star forward Chris Singleton, who exited the game with an injury at the 9:46 mark. FSU trailed 19-15 at that point, but Singleton’s squad closed the half on a 19-4 run after his departure.
The Hoos tried to make a late second-half push with an 8-0 run that cut a 16-point deficit in half, which led to an frantic few minutes as the visitors tried furiously to pull off a shocking rally. At 3:09, Sammy Zeglinski hit a 3-pointer in the corner to cut the lead to four at 55-51. Moments later, a Joe Harris runner in the paint made it a one possession game at 56-53. The last-gasp effort, however, was squelched when Florida State made enough free throws to secure the seven-point victory.
“I thought there was a level of toughness in that comeback on the offensive and defensive end. We said alright, we’re going to try to bang you with screens, try to work on the other end. They didn’t hurt us on the glass like I thought they would and I know we caught a break with Singleton out,” Bennett said. “It gets old when you keep saying you’ve got to keep plugging, you’ve got to keep knocking, you’ve got to keep coming but what’s the alternative? I just want them to keep maxing out and hopefully sooner than later we’ll break through.”
UVa’s Sammy Zeglinski made 5 3-pointers.
For Virginia, the day essentially turned into a hit-or-miss affair from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers hoisted 30 3-point attempts in the contest, making 11 triples (36.7%). Zeglinski led that deep-ball effort with 5-of-11 shooting from downtown; he finished with 19 points, 2 steals, and 2 assists. Harris, who made 4 of 9 treys, chipped in 17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block as well.
While the Hoos found some success from beyond the arc, it wasn’t the game plan to simply bomb away. No, the Seminoles’ size in the paint and tough help defense forced UVa into playing the game from deep on the perimeter. Bernard James helped spearhead the FSU interior defense with 5 blocks.
“We didn’t say we just wanted to jack threes. We wanted to try to get the ball into the paint and then make the best decision out of it,” Bennett said. “A lot of times it was a kickout three. Guys had what we call two-eyed looks and room and rhythm and they shot them. Those shots presented themselves. The times we got in there and thought we could get a pull-up or a shot, that kid cleaned it up pretty good.”
UVa returns to action when it welcomes Duke to Charlottesville on Wednesday at 7 p.m.