Joe Harris reached double figures in scoring for the 15th time this season.
Last February, the Virginia men’s basketball team felt like it let two potential wins get away when North Carolina and Florida State swiped matching three-point victories in the John Paul Jones Arena. For the second time this season, the Hoos made sure to get a little payback.
Less than two weeks after stopping UNC for the first time at the JPJ 61-52, the Cavaliers dispatched the Seminoles for the first time since 2007 with a 56-36 victory on Saturday. Virginia led 8-2 early and never looked back after a 22-6 run to close the half. UVa has won 10 straight games at the JPJ.
“That was our first time beating them. Last year, I felt like they stole one here from us,” Cavalier senior Jontel Evans said. “That was in the back of our minds, but we just wanted to get an ACC win because the last two we dropped. So we just wanted to come in here with the focus of we have to play good and we’ve got to get this win.”
“Definitely. For the guys that had experience in those situations last year, of course we were thinking about that,” Virginia’s Joe Harris said. “Jontel came out and he said before the game that we owe these guys one.”
Much of the game’s tale is evident in the statistics. The Wahoos (12-5, 2-2) made 22 of 45 shots (48.9%) including 7 of 13 3-pointers (53.8%), while the Seminoles (10-7, 2-2) hit 16 of 43 attempts (37.2%) including 1 of 15 3-pointers (6.7%). No one hit double figures for Florida State as Michael Snaer topped the scoring column with 9 points.
As a result, FSU also became the fourth team to join the sub-40 club this season as the visitors set a record for the fewest points scored at the JPJ. Tennessee, Mississippi Valley State, and Wofford also failed to break 40 points on the scoreboard. It’s the eighth time in the Tony Bennett era that an opponent fell short of 40 points. FSU’s 15 points in the first half marked the seventh time this season that the Hoos have held an opponent to less than 20 points in a half; it also represented the fewest points allowed by UVa vs. an ACC opponent at halftime since Clemson had 14 in 1996.
“I thought that at the Clemson game we were in the right ballpark in terms of our effort. We were trying to play ruggedly. We got quality looks, but we just didn’t make them,” Bennett said. “We had some good, hard practices leading up to this game. Today, we shot the ball so well and that energized us defensively. They were flying around, but we had some soundness. I thought that we didn’t give Florida State any easy looks.”
Harris and Akil Mitchell , put in a good chunk of the day’s offense – the duo combined for 30 points as the only two players in double figures. Harris led the way with 17 points to go with 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block, while Mitchell added 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals.
Beyond Virginia’s usual suspects, however, the Cavaliers got a lot of production from the supporting cast too. In the first half alone, Paul Jesperson and Justin Anderson hit two 3-pointers each as the Hoos scorched the Seminoles’ lackluster defense for 77.8% shooting from beyond the arc (7 of 9) en route to a 33-15 halftime lead. It is the seventh time this season that Virginia has made at least 7 triples in a game.
Jesperson and Anderson each finished the game with 8 points, career-highs in ACC play for both players. Jesperson added 2 rebounds and 1 steal, while Anderson chipped in 3 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 1 steal, and 1 assist.
UVa’s Justin Anderson posted 8 points and 3 blocks.
Keep in mind that the duo had combined for just 18 points in the Hoos’ first three ACC outings. For Jesperson, his day included a baseline drive late in the shot clock for a lay-up; that’s a welcome move from someone who has been primarily a jump-shooter so far in his career. For Anderson, his day included a fake baseline drive and one-dribble pull-up jumper to his right; that’s a welcome move from someone who has been primarily a driver so far in his career. In other words, the two players that log the most minutes at one wing spot for the Hoos delivered points and signs of their potential.
“I’ve just been trying to come into games with a mindset of just continuously being more and more aggressive because I think that helps our team out,” Jesperson said. “Coach Bennett said something to me before conference play started. I’m not sure if he said anything to Justin, but I talked to him in his office and he wanted me to produce a little bit more and I’ve been trying to do that.”
“Just play my game. They don’t want me to think out there, they just want me to use my natural ability,” Anderson said. “Personally one thing not too many people know is that I like to get my teammates open and get them good shots. I like to make that pass to get Joe or Paul a big-time three or our big fellas to get dunks. That’s one thing that I’ve always thought is my strength and that’s what I think I’m going to have to do help this team be really good.”
Virginia picked up 6 points and 7 assists from Jontel Evans ; that tied his career-high in league play. He moved into 10th place on the program’s career assists list with 323 surpassing J.R. Reynolds (317). Evan Nolte started in place of Darion Atkins , who sat out the game with a shin injury, and posted 2 points, 7 rebounds, 1 blocked shot, and 1 assist. Nolte also did a solid job defensively with his chief assignment being Okaro White, who had 8 points and 5 rebounds.
So all in all, it was a big win through a team effort for the Cavaliers, who needed to bounce back from back-to-back league losses. A late injury to FSU’s Terrance Shannon took some of the edge off the victory, though. Shannon was removed from the playing surface on a stretcher after banging his head into Nolte while trying to make a move off an offensive rebound.
“[The performance is] all sobered however, because of what happened at the end. You see that, and you can’t feel as good as you’d like because you hope and pray for their young man,” Bennett said. “I hope that it’s not anything threatening or serious.”
According to The Associated Press, Shannon suffered a stinger or burner in the neck area and doctors wanted him to go to the hospital as a precaution. FSU coach Leonard Hamilton did not have more information in his meeting with the media after the game.
“I can’t really tell you anything about Terrence right now, but we do know that when he was going down he hit his head on a player’s thigh I believe,” Hamilton said. “He had a, I guess what you call in football, a stinger; I still don’t really know what that is. He had an issue about three or four weeks ago when his neck got twisted so it’s unfortunate. They said he was moving his extremities.”
According to Corey Clark of The Tallahassee Democrat on Twitter, FSU team doctor Bill Thompson reported that Shannon has a neck sprain and his condition has improved since exiting the game.