Jan. 18, 2016
By Jeff White (email@example.com)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla.– When his postgame press conference ended at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, University of Virginia men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett stepped out into a hallway and found his counterpart from Florida State waiting to enter the room.
Bennett and Leonard Hamilton shook hands, exchanged pleasantries and talked briefly about their next opponents: Clemson for UVA and Louisville for FSU.
“Ain’t no cakewalks [in the ACC],” Hamilton told Bennett as they parted.
The Cavaliers knew that when they landed in Tallahassee on Saturday, but they were reminded anew Sunday night. The Seminoles, who trailed by six late in the first half, had their way with 13th-ranked Virginia’s defense in the final 20 minutes and pulled away for a 69-62 victory.
“That’s our league,” Bennett said. “We’re 2-3 [in ACC play], and they’re 2-3. We’ve got some talented teams that are fighting it out.”
The `Noles, who ended a five-game losing streak in this series, shot 62.3 percent from the floor in the second half and 48.8 percent for the game. From 3-point range, FSU (12-5 overall) made 6 of 13 attempts, including 4 of 6 in the second half.
“To win against good teams — or to win on the road, what have you — you have to be able to come up with some stops,” Bennett said.
The Wahoos (13-4 overall) were rarely able to do so when it counted Sunday night. As a result they’ve lost three consecutive road games for the first time since 2012-13. The `Hoos are unbeaten this season at John Paul Jones Arena, where they’ll meet surging Clemson (12-6, 5-1) on Tuesday night, but frustration over their road struggles was evident at the Tucker Center.
The Cavaliers don’t want to rely on their home-court advantage to get ACC victories.
“I’d much rather try and get a win on the road,” Perrantes said, “but you gotta take what the season gives you and keep moving.”
Perrantes led Virginia with a game-high 19 points Sunday, but he was 4 for 13 from the floor. Fifth-year guard Malcolm Brogdon was off the mark, too, missing 13 of 17 field-goal attempts.
“Those were numbers that were tough,” Bennett said.
FSU’s guards, meanwhile, dazzled. Heralded freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley combined for 35 points, and sophomore point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes added 11 points. The first guard off the bench for Florida State, senior Devon Bookert, contributed nine points, three assists and one steal.
The `Noles “were playing inspired ball, and they’ve got very talented players,” Bennett said. “You can see those two first-years are special … and then Bookert hit some tough shots.”
With FSU so efficient on offense, Virginia’s margin for error was thin, and missed layups by senior forward Evan Nolte, sophomore forward Isaiah Wilkins and fifth-year senior forward Anthony Gill in the final 6:50 proved costly.
“It’s tough,” Bennett said. “You’re close, and you need to have some things go well that haven’t been going well. But when you can’t count on at least getting a stop or making them earn, those things hurt. And I think at inopportune times we either missed a bunny or didn’t finish or [the Seminoles] came away with a shot that was too much of a high-percentage shot.”
FSU shot only 37.4 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes. But the `Noles ended the half with a basket — a 3-pointer by Beasley, who had missed his first five field-goal attempts — and the second half brought more of the same. Much more.
Florida State had runs of 7-0 and 10-0 after intermission. Virginia, which led 39-36 with 12:06 to play, found itself trailing 46-39 about three minutes later.
“The first half we defended well,” Bennett said, “but you have to be able to defend for longer stretches well, and it’s certainly a test against that kind of talent.”
Gill made 5 of 8 shots from the floor and scored 13 points. But he missed a layup that would have cut Virginia’s deficit to three with 75 seconds remaining.
“I was really upset with myself, and that kind of stuff can’t happen,” Gill said. “Especially as a leader of this team, when it gets down to it, I have to be able to finish and really be able to help the team. I don’t get the ball that much, but when I do, I have to capitalize on it.”
Gill is Virginia’s top low-post scorer. The Seminoles wanted to smother him inside, and for much of the game they succeeded.
“We finally started getting it to him,” Bennett said, “but they really made it hard to get it to him.”
Gill said: “They came out and they were really physical with us, and they didn’t really allow us to get the ball where we wanted to on offense, which threw our offense off a lot.
“We have to be better with that. We’re going to get pressured all season, so we have to be physical, we have to be strong and ready from the beginning.”
Even if they were not especially sharp, the Cavaliers led for the final 5:01 of the opening half. After Brogdon hit Virginia’s first 3-pointer, he came up with a steal and passed to guard Devon Hall, whose fast-break dunk put Virginia ahead 21-18.
The Seminoles’ ninth turnover gave UVA possession with 31 seconds left in the half. The Cavaliers led 28-22, and Bennett called a timeout to set up a final shot.
The `Hoos had an opportunity to take an eight- or nine-point lead into the break. Instead, when Perrantes could not find an open teammate on an inbounds play, Virginia turned it over with 11.1 seconds left, and Beasley buried a trey as time expired to pull FSU to 28-25.
“Just miscommunication,” Perrantes said when asked about the five-second call.
“That was a momentum-changer,” Bennett said, “but that wasn’t the difference.”
“Stuff like that happens in games,” he said. “It’s a matter of us being able to come back down here and get a stop, which we didn’t.”
A 6-5 redshirt sophomore, Hall made his first start of the season in Tallahassee. On a night when Bennett chose not to play sophomore swingman Marial Shayok, who has started eight games this season, Hall totaled six points, two rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes.
He had trouble staying in front of FSU’s guards at times — as did his teammates — but Hall was 2 for 3 from the floor and did not turn the ball over.
“He did a good job,” Bennett said. “He’s been in the system for three years, and he brings some good fight to start the game, and I thought he did a solid job out there … We’re kind of looking for answers, so we’ll keep looking for sure.”
The loss to FSU means these Cavaliers already have dropped as many games as they did in 2014-15, when they won their second straight ACC regular-season title.
“Guys are maybe a little bit frustrated,” Hall said, “but it’s just a matter of rallying together. All of our guys are just ready to pull together and figure out how we’re going to get these wins … We know we can play and we know what type of caliber team we are. So we just gotta keep grinding and keep trying to find a way to get stops and get wins, because it’s a tough league.”
Perrantes said: “You can’t single anybody out. Realistically I don’t think it comes down to Xs and Os any more. I think it comes down to just heart, energy, things like that … It just all comes down to the defensive end and playing with some energy and just playing with some grit. We’re not doing that.”
Consistency is the key, according to Gill.
“We can’t have those lapses on offense or defense where we’re not doing what we need to do, or guys go off on their own and we’re not playing team defense or offense,” Gill said. “Because this team operates as a unit, and if people aren’t doing that, then we’re really going to have some problems.”
UP NEXT: Before visiting Wake Forest next Monday night, Virginia will play twice at JPJ. The first of those games, Tuesday against 8 p.m., comes against one of the ACC’s hottest teams.
Since losing at North Carolina on Dec. 30, Clemson has won five straight games, beating Florida State, Syracuse, Louisville, Duke and, on Saturday afternoon, Miami.
ESPNU will televise the game. The Cavaliers have won three straight over the Tigers and five of the past seven meetings.
Virginia hosts Syracuse (11-7, 1-4) at noon Saturday. Tickets for the Clemson game are still available.