For the first time since 1995, the Virginia Cavaliers will play on Saturday in the ACC Tournament. Joe Harris's 20 points led UVA past a desperate Florida State team, controlling the game and notching a 13 point win. The Hoos beat the Seminoles for the 3rd time this season to pick up their 26th win and advance to the ACC semifinals against UNC or Pitt.
Unlike the first two matchups against FSU, Virginia didn't build a big early lead; however, they never trailed after going ahead 12-11 nine minutes into the game. Still, the Hoos struggled to pull away in the first half. UVA had issues on the defensive glass, leading to easy points for the Noles. FSU also took advantage of a few questionable calls and some lazy early turnovers to hang in the game until around halftime, when they trailed 32-27. A fired up Tony Bennett went into the break commenting, "It's a physical game, it should be called that way."
In the second half, UVA extended their lead for good, locking down on the defensive end; on the game, they held FSU to just .90 PPP and forced 15 turnovers (26.6% of possessions). Their defensive rebounding wasn't great, but it did improve, while they also crashed the offensive glass, a weakness of FSU's. UVA's DReb% of 64% was poor, but Florida State only pulled in 54% of UVA misses.
At the same time, the Hoos began having their way with the Noles on the interior. Anthony Gill finished with 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting, and Darion Atkins added 6 more, nailing a 15 foot jumper and one of the thunderous put-backs in this video:
However, the story of the day was the return of an assertive and versatile Joe Harris. His 20 points came on 7-12 shooting from the field, including 3-6 from long range, as he scored from behind the arc, on pull-up jumpers, and in the lane. Believe it or not, that 20 point outing ties a season high (he had 20 against Hampton back in December).
Only Malcolm Brogdon seemed to have an off-day offensively, as he finished just 2 of 10 from the field, including 1-7 from behind the arc, missing some open looks badly. The performance was his first one with single digit scoring since finishing with no points at Tennessee.
In other positive news, this game was hard-fought and physical, but no animosity was present between the teams despite the chippiness in Charlottesville earlier this year and Okaro White's pregame comments. (No apology letters will be necessary this time)! To White's credit, he did back up his talk with an efficient 17 point outing.
While Florida State sits in bubble limbo, Virginia moves on to play tomorrow at 1 PM against the Pitt vs. UNC winner. Today's win probably locks up a 3-seed or better for the Hoos in the Big Dance; UVA will have (hopefully) 2 games to improve that, and make their case for the last #1 seed spot, which still looks to be up for grabs.