The No. 4 Virginia basketball program cruised to a 65-52 win over No. 9 Florida State on Saturday, improving to 13-0 overall in the 2018-19 season while capturing its 11th straight Atlantic Coast Conference opener – the last 10 with Tony Bennett as head coach.
Florida State, which entered John Paul Jones Arena boasting a school-record-tying 12-1 mark, struggled throughout versus Virginia’s Pack Line defense and had no answer for a Kyle Guy/Braxton Key-led “Cavalanche” delivered by the home team in the final five minutes of the first-half.
Guy, coming off a career-high 30 points in a blowout win over Marshall on New Year’s Eve, picked up right where he left off against the Thundering Herd with a blistering 18-point first-half performance against the Seminoles. By halftime he had made 6-of-7 shots including all four 3-point attempts, the last two treys part of a 15-2 Virginia run that boosted the Cavalier lead from six at the 4:49 mark to 19 (42-23) at halftime.
“Like I always say, it is just my teammates having confidence in me and me having confidence in myself,” the Indianapolis (IN) native said of his shooting performance. Including the final six 3s versus Marshall and the first five 3s versus Florida State, Guy set a new school record with 11 straight makes from beyond the arc. The previous Virginia record was eight.
“The coaching staff and teammates have confidence in me,” Guy continued. “It really gets me going. I think Ty [Jerome] does a great job, he’s a true servant, always trying to find me and get me going. He always comes and finds me in the timeout and tells me that he is about to get me going. I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Key added 12 first-half points, including seven during the 15-2 run. Guy and Key would provide the bulk of Virginia’s offense on the day, totaling 41 points – 21 from Guy, 20 from Key. The duo combined to make 14-of-22 shots including 7-of-11 from 3-point range.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Cavaliers who saw double-digit minutes combined for only 20 points on 6-of-29 shooting. Redshirt sophomore De’Andre Hunter and junior Ty Jerome, UVA’s second and third leading scorers prior to today’s game, scored only 12 points total on 4-of-19 shooting. Jerome contributed six assists, though, and Virginia as a team was efficient at the free throw line, making 16-of-18 attempts.
Key, who transferred to Virginia last summer after spending the previous two years at Alabama, had had only two double-digit scoring performances this season – a 13-point effort versus Middle Tennessee State and a 10-point outing at Maryland. By far, his effort versus Florida State was his best offensive performance in a Cavalier uniform.
“It felt great,” Key said. “My teammates had confidence in me and I had confidence in myself. Whenever I had an open look, I tried to be more aggressive today, and shots were falling for me today. “
Of Key, Coach Bennett said: “He’s had a couple of real good practices, defensively he’s been really good in position, and I told him that. Offensively, I thought he really let the game come, took the open shots when they were there and attacked when it was there. That’s his game. He’s kind of a complete player who does a little bit of everything and understands how to play. I was just as pleased with his defense as his offense.”
Not in the least bit surprising, postgame Bennett seemed most excited to talk about his team’s defensive effort against a Seminole team that had scored over 80 points in nine of its first 13 games.
“We were locked in and we were ready to play defensively,” Bennett said. “Our length, our slides, we contested stuff. Did they miss some shots? Yes. Were we perfect? No. But we said we’re going to work, and at halftime I said, ‘If you can, win this with your defense’. Offense we’ve talked about many times can come and go but defensively you just have to make them shoot a contested shot, we have to make them earn their shots, not give them second chance points. I think we did that at a very acceptable level for us.”
Indeed, following the “Cavalanche” at the end of the first-half, the Virginia defense took care of the rest, holding the visitors to just 11 points in the first 17 minutes and 26 seconds of the second-half. Florida State rattled off an 18-2 run in the final 2:34 against UVA’s reserves, but when it mattered Leonard Hamilton’s group struggled mightily on offense. No Seminole reached double-digits in scoring, and leading scorer Terance Mann, who Hamilton revealed was nursing a heel injury, was held scoreless.
Florida State made five of its final six shots against Virginia’s reserves. The rest of the game, the Seminoles shot only 10-of-38 (26%) from the field, including 5-of-21 (23.8%) from beyond the arc. UVA forced 15 turnovers, capitalizing with 21 points off those turnovers. Guy, Key, freshman point guard Kihei Clark and redshirt junior forward Mamadi Diakite had one steal apiece, while Diakite and reserve center Jay Huff each contributed a blocked shot. The Hoos forced two shot clock violations in the second-half.
“We just played defense,” Hunter said. “Our shots in the second half weren’t really falling, so we had to rely on our defense. We practice it every day, so it’s kind of second nature. When we make it hard for other teams to score, they get tired, and we can take advantage of that on offense.”
Virginia won the battle of the boards, 36-32, against the sizable Seminoles, who were limited to just three second-chance points. Key and Hunter led the Hoos with six boards apiece. Guy and redshirt senior center Jack Salt each added five rebounds, while Jerome and Diakite each contributed four boards.
UVA hits the road for its next two ACC games, taking on Boston College on January 9 before heading to Clemson on January 12. The Hoos return home to face another AP top 10 foe in Virginia Tech on January 15.
– Box Score
– Click here for highlights of Virginia basketball’s win over Florida State
– Click here for player postgame comments from Kyle Guy and Braxton Key
– Click here for Tony Bennett’s postgame presser