Virginia returned to form in a big way, shutting down Michael Snaer and Florida State, while shooting the lights out in a dominating 56-36 win. After two straight road losses, the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena treated the Hoos well, as UVA improved to 11-1 at home, 12-5 overall, and 2-2 in ACC play. The team got off to a quick 11-4 lead and never looked back, using a 22-4 run to put away the Noles, who never came within 10 points after the first 10 minutes of the game.
Joe Harris led the way, scoring 19 points on 5-12 shooting, including three made 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes of the game. Harris also grabbed 4 rebounds, 3 on offense. As a whole, the team shot 7-13 from behind the arc, including 7-9 shooting in the first half. On the other hand, Florida State made just 1 of their 15 long-range shots. The Seminoles shot just 37% from the field, while also turning the ball over 18 times. The ingredients for two straight UVA losses, poor shooting and turnovers, were reasons for a twenty point win today.
The team also solved the issues they've had on the defensive end. Though much was made of UVA's inability to score against Clemson and Wake Forest, and rightfully so, the team's failure to execute Tony Bennett's bread and butter Packline defense was also concerning. Holding a solid offensive team (Florida State entered the game ranked 47th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency) to .65 points per possession shows that the Hoos have still got it. The dangerous Snaer was held to 9 points, as no Seminole scored in double-digits.
Teams finished with 54 possessions, tied for the lowest in the Tony Bennett era; Florida State's propensity for finding themselves with the shot clock ticking away was the main reason for the slow (even for UVA standards) tempo.
Darion Atkins didn't dress for the game, as he recovers from a stress reaction in his shin; Evan Nolte got the start in his place. Nolte didn't have his best game, shooting 1 of 6 from the field, but played well defensively, grabbed a game-high 7 rebounds, and changed the UVA lineup into a more dangerous shooting one.
Justin Anderson had one of his better games, scoring 8 points on 3-5 shooting and registering 3 big blocks (one on a 7-foot-1 center, and one from the other side of the rim). Akil Mitchell still didn't appear 100% healthy but fought through it, scoring 13 points on 6 shots. Paul Jesperson added 8 points, including 6 on two early three-pointers. Mike Tobey played a surprisingly low 13 minutes; despite his offensive potential, he struggled on defense and was likely deemed by Coach Bennett to be a poor matchup with FSU.
Jontel Evans continues to improve after being dogged by injuries for the first part of the season. Tony Bennett has stressed his need to be sound with the basketball; while his 5 turnovers are still on the high side, he did earn 7 assists and score 6 points. Evans must focus on being a game manager, and he seemed to fill that role today. Jontel played 29 minutes at point guard, with Doug Browman and Teven Jones splitting the remaining 11.
Going forward, UVA must find a way to get to the free-throw line more. The team ranked 286th in the nation at FTA/FGA coming into the game (at .31) and that will decrease after today's 6 FT attempts and 45 FG attempts. The Wahoo offense was jump-shot heavy today and succeeded. However, there will be nights when not all of those three-pointers are falling, and the team will need to find opportunities for easy points.
The end-game was overshadowed by a scary injury to Florida State's Terrence Shannon. Shannon dove forward for a loose ball and jarred his head and neck on Evan Nolte's hip. He lay motionless on the ground for several minutes, and a medical team backboarded him and carried him out. Early reports have been positive; the Washington Post reported he suffered a "stinger" and was able to communicate with doctors and move his extremities. He will spend the night in Charlottesville, and we hope he will make a speedy and full recovery. We will update this post as more updates are made available.
Virginia has proved to be a pretty good home team, with players feeding off the energy of strong crowds like today's, especially on defense. However, the Hoos must bring that same level of focus on the road, especially in rivalry games like this Thursday's against Virginia Tech. The Hokies defeated Wake Forest this afternoon in Blacksburg, but have been struggling of late. Still, VT has won two straight games, feature the dangerous Erick Green, and will bring their "A" game with the chance to knock off UVA. The Hoos must exploit a very poor Hokie defense, while bringing the same defensive intensity we saw today, to escape with a win.
Update: (8:45 PM): The Daily Progress's Jerry Ratcliffe tweeted that a doctor at UVA Medical Center said that Terrence Shannon has a neck sprain and is "'cautiously optimistic' he will be okay"