Mike Scott posted 28 points and 10 rebounds vs. FSU.
Despite being without the services of Malcolm Brogdon , Virginia had 22nd ranked Florida State on the ropes late Thursday night. But it couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
FSU mounted a furious rally in the final five minutes and landed one final counterpunch to win the game when guard Ian Miller buried an off balance 3-pointer to beat the buzzer. The Seminoles escaped John Paul Jones Arena with a 63-60 win.
“Virginia is a great basketball team; they’ve done a great job with this team. The ACC is such that every night you are going to have a competitive game and most of the games could go either way,” State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “In most cases in the last three or four minutes, the games are in doubt. We were very fortunate to come up with the victory tonight and make that play at the end. The team that had the ball at the end was probably the team that was going to win the game.”
This game didn’t appear to be in doubt as the final five minutes began. In fact, everything appeared to be going Virginia’s way late in the game. Leading by seven with just more than five minutes remaining, Florida State center Bernard James was ejected for kicking Joe Harris while on the ground. Just 25 seconds later, Okaro White was whistled for his fifth foul. UVa’s Mike Scott knocked down two free throws to give Virginia an 11-point lead with four and half minutes remaining.
The Senior Night crowd buzzing, the Cavaliers couldn’t connect on one final punch to put the visitors away.
Five straight FSU points cut the Virginia lead to 58-52. The turning point, however, came when Joe Harris was whistled for a questionable offensive foul before the Cavaliers even had a chance to inbound the ball against fullcourt pressure.
“I guess I gave a little more of a push off than I thought I did to get open,” Harris said. “I thought he sold it, almost to the point of flopping, but it was one of those plays I guess that could go either way.”
Miller drained his first critical 3-pointer of the late-game surge off of the ensuing inbounds play and the momentum was clearly with the Seminoles. Miller scored eight of his 18 points in the final three minutes of the game. Akil Mitchell played AAU basketball with Miller for many years. Mitchell says he has seen Miller take over games before, but never like this.
Hoo guard Jontel Evans had 10 points and 4 assists.
“I knew that [Miller] was capable of it,” Mitchell said. “Every time that he scored, he would get more aggressive. I’ve never seen him hit tough shots like this.”
With James and White out of the game, Florida State switched to rare four guard lineup. Miller, Michael Snaer, Luke Loucks, and Deividas Dulkys were all on the floor at the same time in the final stretch of the game. The Seminoles took advantage of Virginia’s lack of depth in the backcourt, and the Cavaliers failed to adjust to the smaller lineup.
“They really spread us out,” UVa guard Sammy Zeglinski said. “They made some big shots at the end and we were not able to get stops.”
Overall, FSU outscored Virginia 16-2 in the final four and half minutes. The Hoos also turned the ball over four times during that stretch.
“I told the guys, ‘I know it stings. I wish I had words to make it better. It stings, but you’re going to be all right. We don’t have a ton of games left. You tapped into the assertiveness against a team like Florida State that you better have or else you won’t even be in the game,'” Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said.
The Hoos were in the game in large part thanks to the play of Scott. The contest marked another great offensive performance for the senior in his final game at the JPJ. After missing 3 of his first 4 shot attempts, the forward finished the game with an ACC career-high 28 points. He made 9 of 15 shots from the field and 10 of 11 from the free-throw line. The consummate team player, Scott was much more concerned with the outcome of the game, rather than his individual numbers. Scott posted his 32nd career double-double with 10 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal, and 1 assist also dotting his stat line.
“That’s good but it really doesn’t mean anything because we lost,” Scott said. “I watched a lot of film on mid-posts and a lot of film of Carmelo Anthony, and I tried to play that mid-post the way that he did.”
Points were tough to come by for the Cavaliers in the final moments of the first half too. Virginia scored just 6 points in the final 10 minutes of the first half and the Seminoles took advantage of the drought to build a 29-20 lead at halftime. Those 20 points are the fewest that the Cavaliers had scored in the first half since the Virginia Tech game back on Jan. 21.
“I thought we weren’t attacking the game on either end in the first half,” Bennett said. “We were playing around Florida State offensively. We weren’t going at them. We weren’t solid with the ball. Even defensively I thought we were just lukewarm. In the second half, I said, ‘If you’re going to have a chance to win this game, you’re going to have to go get it as far as how you screen, as far as how you get to the lane.’ They needed more aggressiveness and more assertiveness – not taking more shots but just being assertive. They did that to a certain point.”
It still wasn’t enough to get Virginia over the hump in close games against the ACC’s best. UVa has made losing to the conference’s elite a habit this season. The Cavaliers are 0-5 against the top 3 teams in the ACC and four of those five losses have come by three points with Virginia leading the second half of every one of those contests.
It’s a collection of missed opportunities for a team riddled with injuries.
“That was our last chance to play one of the top teams in the ACC,” Scott said. “Duke beat us, UNC swept us and Florida State already had a win. We had it, but we gave it away.”