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It wasn’t a masterpiece, but #3 Virginia finds the right strokes to get past FSU

kihei clark
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia’s 62-57 win over FSU here Saturday afternoon in John Paul Jones Arena was certainly no Rembrandt. More like a painting that wins a blue ribbon at a county fair.

No matter. In the end the Cavaliers finally found the right strokes to win their ACC opener against the Seminoles, who fell to 1-9 on the season.

Virginia resident artist Kihei Clark put the final touches on Saturday’s win by knocking down five free throws in the game’s final 49 seconds that allowed the Cavaliers to withstand a late Seminole rally.

To say that Virginia was sluggish to begin the game would be a huge understatement. The Cavaliers, fresh off a huge win over Michigan Tuesday, trailed 22-21 at the break.

How sluggish? Virginia was just 6-of-26 from the floor in the first half, with the starting five a combined 3-of-19.

As they did in Ann Arbor, the Cavaliers responded form the opening second-half tip, connecting on five of their first six field goal attempts to turn the halftime deficit into a 30-24 lead. Virginia never relinquished the lead and built the margin to as many as 12 points, twice.

Florida State, as is seemingly always the case in games with Virginia, would not go away quietly. The Seminoles closed to within three points, at 60-57 with 7.6 seconds remaining. Reece Beekman converted two foul shots to close out the win for UVA, pushing the Cavaliers to 7-0 on the season and 1-0 in ACC play.

Rotation becoming clearer

Tony Bennett’s rotation became a bit clearer today. Ben Vander Plas, while not a starter, got starter-like minutes today with 26.

Freshman Isaac McKneely and Ryan Dunn got 18 and 15 minutes, respectively, and both were on the floor in crucial late-game situations.

Virginia is proving the ability to make in-game adjustments

After simply an ugly first half that saw the Cavaliers score just 21 points, and not being able to throw the ball in the ocean, against what has been a bad FSU defense this season, Virginia bolted out of the locker room.

The 22-8 scoring margin in the opening nine minutes allowed UVA to control the game and did not surrender. Virginia has made similar halftime adjustments in wins over Michigan and Baylor.

FSU’s Leonard Hamilton has seen enough of Kihei Clark

Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton told reporters after the game that in the handshake line at the conclusion of the game, he shook Clark’s hand and said something of the order of, “Are you ever going to leave?”

With Reece Beekman hobbled a bit, due to an ankle injury in the Michigan game, Clark took control of UVA’s scoring with a game-high 18 points, including 9-of-10 from the foul line, and the huge free throws he connected in the game’s closing seconds.

Playing like a seasoned veteran, Clark committed just three turnovers, while playing over 35 minutes. Clark committed just one turnover in the second half.

Cavaliers are proficient at getting to the foul line

While both FSU and Virginia were almost even in fouls committed, 19 for FSU, 17 for UVA, the Cavaliers went to the charity strip 26 times compared to only nine by the Seminoles.

The ability for UVA to get to the line more this season is certainly a huge positive. There seem to be several factors leading to more foul shots. It starts with the significant difference in the threat of UVA from shooting for the perimeter. Solid outside shooting just messes things up for opposing defenses.

Stronger guard play is huge as well. Virginia’s guards show no hesitancy in taking the ball to the rim. And a big credit goes to Kadin Shedrick as well. Shedrick’s ability to avoid early foul trouble is allowing him to see the floor more. Today he played 23 minutes, and it would have been significantly more had he not been punched in the throat by an FSU defender.

Up next

Virginia remains at home and welcomes James Madison Uiversity to JPJ Thursday evening. The Dukes are the middle game for UVA against teams that all beat the Cavaliers last season.

After the exam break , #1 Houston comes to town.

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].