Leonard Hamilton's Seminoles are one of the hottest teams in the conference right now, sporting a six-game win streak. FSU has served notice to the usual suspects atop the league standings with wins over both North Carolina and Duke during the stretch. Florida State kept the winning going this week, moving to 6-1 in conference play with a 68-54 win over Georgia Tech.
Tony Bennett came to Charlottesville and instilled a tough defensive approach to doing things. The players have bought in from day one and the team is now seeing the fruit of its labor. Virginia enters this contest following three straight wins, including a 65-61 home win over Clemson this week. The victory kept the Cavs in striking distance in the conference standings at 5-2.
FSU holds a slim 19-17 lead in the series with Virginia thanks to wins in five straight and eight of the last nine meetings overall. In addition, FSU has won eight straight over the Cavaliers at the Tucker Center.
The Cavs' stifling defensive play is what has driven the team towards the upper echelon in the ACC this year. Virginia is allowing a meager 51.1 ppg (second nationally), holding foes to just .389 shooting overall and .270 from behind the arc. The team doesn't put up gaudy offensive numbers (64.3 ppg), but still enjoys a comfortable +13.2 scoring margin. The Cavaliers have also done a nice job on the glass, outrebounding opponents by just over six caroms per game. Virginia relies heavily on the play of veteran forward Mike Scott, who leads the way in both scoring (17.0 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg). Joe Harris (12.6 ppg) and Sammy Zeglinski (8.9 ppg) provide perimeter balance. The two guards have combined for 74 of the team's 106 three-pointers thus far.
It was efficiency at the offensive end that led the Cavs to the four-point win over Clemson this week. Virginia managed a modest 65 points, but did so on 55.8 percent shooting, including a 6-of-14 effort from behind the arc. Scott was once again strong down low, posting a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Harris poured in 19 points in support, hitting 5-of-6 from behind the arc.
The Seminoles have maneuvered through the ACC in similar fashion, using strong defensive skills to frustrate the opposition. FSU is allowing just 61.6 ppg this year, as foes have struggled from all over the floor, converting just 37 percent overall and 28.3 percent from three-point range. Guard Michael Snaer headlines three Seminoles in double figures. Snaer is netting 14.1 ppg, fueled by a 40.6-percent showing from long range. Bernard James complements with his play inside, shooting .590 from the floor and averaging 10.5 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Ian Miller is a catalyst for the team off the bench, averaging 10.1 ppg, while playing just over 23 minutes per game.
Snaer scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, leading the Seminoles to their school-record sixth straight ACC victory. James tacked on 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Okaro White came off the bench with 11 points. Florida State. which shot a mere .348 from the floor in the first half, found its range after the break, nailing 61.5 percent over the final 20 minutes of play to earn the win. The Seminoles forced Georgia Tech into a whopping 24 turnovers, scoring 25 points off those miscues.