TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a rare underdog’s role, Virginia took a late lead over ninth-ranked Florida State in ACC men’s basketball action on Wednesday but couldn’t hold on and lost its third game in a row, 54-50, at the Tucker Center.
It was the eighth straight win for Florida State (15-2, 5-1). UVa fell to 11-5 and 3-3.
“They played hard defensively; my message to them after the game was, ‘You have to take that ‘cause that was a step in the right direction,’ ” UVa coach Tony Bennett said on radio after the game, “and then, offensively, keep that mentality but with a bit better decision making and a bit better soundness.
“You can hang your head but, nah, we’ve got too many games. You step into a new environment tonight and we didn’t back down. I’ll take that.”
Less than three days remain before the Cavaliers take the floor again for a meeting at Georgia Tech.
Virginia, which went into the game as a 6 1/2-point underdog, fell behind 11-2 in the game’s opening minutes but scored eight points in a row and challenged FSU the rest of the way.
After falling behind 31-24 at the half, UVa forced a 35-35 tie on a free throw by Braxton Key that was preceded by a Tomas Woldetensae 3-pointer, the Cavaliers’ first 3-pointer of the night, coming with 13:53 left.
Virginia had a chance to take the lead at the 10-minute mark but the Seminoles blocked a Casey Morsell block attempt. A 3-pointer by M.J. Walker at the other end gave FSU a 40-37 lead, although UVa tied it at 44-44 on a Mamadi Diakite bucket.
Kihei Clark’s bucket with 5:22 remaining put Virginia ahead 46-44. A Diakite free throw made it 47-44 with 3:11 left, but FSU scored the next eight points.
FSU delivered the dagger from Devin Vassell with 14 seconds remaining. He hit a corner 3-pointer to give the Seminoles a 52-47 lead. Woldetensae answered with a 3-pointer, but the Seminoles hit two free throws late to clinch it. Woldetensae was the only Virginia player to make a 3-pointer.
“I was just hungry, and I just wanted to help,” Woldetensae said. “If it’s balls in the basket, I’ll do it. If it’s harassing the other team, I’ll do it. I just want to win. … There’s nothing encouraging about a loss.”
Diakite, with 16 points, was the only double-figure scorer for UVa. Florida State’s Vassell led all scorers with 18.
“Florida State has always been good and this year they’ve got more interchangeable parts,” Bennett said. “It’s hard to replicate their speed.”
After taking a six-point lead with five minutes remaining in the first half Wednesday night at Florida State, Virginia went on to display all of its shortcomings.
The Cavs ended the half by missing all of their eight 3-point attempts to go along with 11 first-half turnovers.
They were 3-of-15 from 3-point range for the game.