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No. 9 FSU basketball drops ACC opener to No. 4 Virginia

An ugly conference debut for the Seminoles.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, when I draft a gamer (the first story released that recaps what happened in a contest), I jot down a bunch of bullet points about the constituent elements that shaped the outcome. I tend to avoid actually writing, however, until the result has become obvious. So in No. 9 Florida State’s 65-52 loss to No. 4 Virginia, that meant waiting until almost halftime

Don’t let that final score fool you— for all intents and purposes, this one was over at intermission. But the Seminoles actually didn’t get off to a bad start, playing aggressively on offense by not passing up open shots when they presented themselves— we discussed how FSU would have to hit deep shots, due to the strength of Virginia’s pack-line defense inside. And so the ’Noles began 2-4 on 3s and led 8-4 at the first media timeout. So far, so good.

And Florida State was finding decent looks at the rim, too, getting to the stripe 15 times in the first half. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, because the ’Noles have been solid from the line this year. But FSU began giving points away early, missing their first three free throws and four of their first five. Against a top-5 defense like UVA’s, you simply have to cash in on your freebies. And the Seminoles were just 8-15 at the half (53%).

And that success from deep? Yeah, that dried up quickly, too. The ’Noles finished just 3-12 from downtown in the first half. Conversely, the Cavs’ Kyle Guy torched FSU from afar, hitting all four of his treys before the half and his first five overall, several of which were falling away with a hand in his face. Florida State, meanwhile, had just six field goals and eight turnovers at the half, on the way to a 42-23 deficit.

And against a team like Virginia, which came into this one as the slowest squad in the country, that’s simply insurmountable— because the Cavs are also one of the most efficient teams in the nation. So if this write-up seems rather heavily focused on the first half, that’s for a reason: everything after the break was garbage time, and we’re not in the business of covering garbage time.

That said, this was bad, but thanks to a late scramble by the Seminoles, it didn’t wind up looking as bad as it could have. The ’Noles needed a 16-0 run to close the game and make the final as close as it was, as they were down 29 with 2:18 left. So in a game in which FSU was a 9.5-point underdog, it lost by 13. That doesn’t look so terrible at all. Now, we all know that it wasn’t that close, but those who vote in national polls — or decide NCAA Tournament seeds — might not pay as much attention. So call it a late silver lining in the optics department. Hey, it’s Saturday and the NFL playoffs are on; I gotta close on a positive note.

Here’s one more: Florida State will look for its first ACC win when it hosts the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday at 9 pm.