clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida State loses three-point battle in tough defeat against Virginia

The ‘Noles fought valiantly but just couldn’t overcome the perimeter shooting woes.

Peyton Baker

Florida State (13-10, 7-5) sliced and diced the famed Packline D better than almost any opponent has, but in the end it was still Virginia (19-5, 10-3) walking out of the Tucker Center victoriously thanks to a massive disparity in three-point shooting. The Wahoos made 10-18 from deep, while FSU only hit 2-16 and that was enough to negate a superb inside attack by the ‘Noles for an 80-76 UVA win. Isaac McKneely led all scores with 29 points, including 5-7 from three.

First Half:

Jamir Watkins opened the game’s scoring nearly two minutes in with a nice attack of the basket and finish through contact. From there the two teams continued to grind out possessions and at the under-16 media timeout things stood at 5-4 UVA. Virginia stretched the lead out to 9-4 thanks to some pitiful Florida State defensive rebounding, but the ‘Noles were able to cut the deficit back to one thanks to back-to-back buckets by Cameron Corhen and Josh Nickelberry.

A key to playing Virginia is not letting then build double-digit leads. There are so many fewer possessions when playing a Tony Bennett team that in order to come back from down 12 or 14 points you either have to play near perfect defense for a long stretch of time, or you have to be supremely efficient on a per possession basis. This made the middle stretch of the first half a danger zone for the Seminoles. The Cavaliers extended their lead to four after FSU fouled a three-point shooter, and then quickly pushed it to seven on a made corner three. One more three a possession later and just like that the Wahoos led 18-8, all of this happening with Jalen Warley on the bench.

Warley came back in around the 10 minute mark and the Seminoles momentarily regained their footing. Jaylan Gainey established position deep in the post and sank a short jumper. Then, after two Watkins free throws, Baba Miller found De’Ante Green on a nice entry pass and Green finished strong at the hoop. At this point the score was 21-14 UVA and FSU had a chance to cut it further but missed several good looks. Unfortunately, another three—their 4th of the half—pushed the UVA lead right back out to 10, 24-14 with 8:16 remaining.

On a highway to the danger zone, FSU responded. Once again, it was Watkins making something happen as he got inside the packline defense to draw a foul. Corhen and Chandler Jackson (playing for the first time since the UNC game) made consecutive baskets and the deficit was now just four points again, 24-20.

The final five minutes of the half was played to a 10-10 draw, with all 20 points scored inside the paint or free throw line. Warley was particularly impressive during this stretch as he made two buckets and also skied high for a critical offensive rebound that resulted in two free throws by Gainey. The half ended with Virginia missing a shot at the buzzer and taking a 34-30 lead into the locker room.

In some respects it was impressive FSU was only down four. The ‘Noles lost the three-point battle (a theme of the season) by 12 points, going 0-5 while UVA went 4-10. But Florida State was highly efficient inside the arc, finishing 10-15 from two and also going 10-11 from the free throw line, led by a 6-6 first half FT performance from Watkins. This inside scoring is quite impressive against a Tony Bennett defense that came into the game ranked 10th in the entire country in two-point percentage defense.

Second Half:

The second stanza opened with yet another three for UVA, the second of the game for 26% three point shooter Andrew Rohde. The ‘Noles then traded one free throw for a Virginia layup and just like that the Cavaliers led 39-31 with less than two minutes gone.

Florida State finally got it’s first three of the game 24 minutes in thanks to Miller hitting one following a spectacular block by Watkins. However, UVA added a layup on a great cut to the rim and their 6th three of the game on the next two possessions and the margin jumped back up to 10, 46-36 with 14:35 left. Florida State was quickly running out of possessions and Virginia was scoring 1.7 points per possession in the second half.

Chandler Jackson stepped up with five quick points and then Corhen sank a pair from the FT line, allowing FSU to trim the lead back down to six points at 49-43. But seemingly every time UVA needed a bucket to prevent any serious run by FSU they got one, usually in the form of a swished three-ball. This time it was senior Jake Groves making his first of the game, giving Virginia a 52-43 lead with 11:54 left. The lead grew to 11 on an easy layup for the ‘Hoos and Leonard Hamilton had seen enough, calling a timeout.

Whatever Ham’s message was in the huddle, it worked. Watkins finished a tough layup and then ripped the ball away from his man on the in-bounds and finishing with an authoritative dunk. Next it was Jackson stealing the spotlight. The sophomore from Memphis made a bucket through contact for three points the old fashioned way, and followed that up with a coast to coast layup. The crowd was finally into it and Florida State was within two at 54-52.

Once again, UVA needed a big shot and they got one in the form of another corner-three from Groves. A few minutes later the UVA was right back up to 12 and things looked pretty bleak. To their credit, the Seminoles kept competing, with the triumvirate of Watkins, Warley, and Jackson all making brilliant plays to get FSU back to within 4 points at 72-68 with just over a minute remaining. But once again, UVA hit a three—their 10th of the game—and this one was the backbreaker.

UVA hit their free throws and that was that. Florida State finished 22-31 from inside the arc, plus 26-33 from the FT line and still lost.

Box Score and Takeaways:

  • Florida State is just a couple of consistent three point shooters away from being a really solid club. The team absolutely carved up Tony Bennett’s packline D in the first half, but when you’re constantly getting outscored by 15+ points from the three point line it’s mighty hard to win in modern basketball. In this one, UVA outscored FSU by 24 points from deep.
  • I don’t know what Chandler Jackson did to get in the dog house for two games, but wow was it nice to have him back in this one. He’s quietly put together a pretty nice 2024 (when he’s been able to play). Hopefully he starts to be more consistent off the court because he could be a candidate for a breakout campaign in 2024-25.
  • Jamir Watkins would have been absolutely sensational on the FSU teams circa 2018 and 2019. Sheesh, that would have been fun. As it is, I’m betting some NBA team will be getting a nice contributor in the second round.
  • At this point in the season, Florida State is running out of chances to build an NCAA Tournament resume. Lazy efforts in losses to Lipscomb, SMU, USF, and Louisville are really haunting them right now. The ‘Noles are a top 45 team since January 1st, but being a top 45 team isn’t the same as having a top 45 resume. The most realistic path to an NCAA Tournament bid is probably winning enough of their remaining games to secure a double-bye in the ACC Tournament and then using their depth to win three straight games.

Looking Ahead:

Florida State goes on the road to face Virginia’s neighbors down in Blacksburg, the Virginia Tech Hokies. Florida State beat VT 77-74 on January 6th in Tallahassee, so the Hokies will surely have revenge on their mind. The game tips at 9:00pm on Tuesday, February 13th.