No. 9 FSU pulls away from UVA in final minutes for eighth straight win

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No. 9 FSU (15-2, 5-1) defeated UVA (11-5, 3-3) by a score of 54-50 on Wednesday night at the Tucker Center.

FSU came out of the gate quick as Devin Vassell drained a three from the corner on the Seminoles’ first possession of the game before Trent Forrest converted an and-1 on the second possession. Malik Osborne followed the and-1 with a three of his own as FSU put up 9 points in their first three possessions. Despite the hot start, UVA kept up with FSU early as the ‘Noles allowed UVA to easily penetrate the interior of the defense. FSU went into the first media timeout with a 12-10 lead over the Cavaliers.

After scoring on their first four possessions, FSU went ice cold. The Seminoles missed their next eight shots and didn’t score for over eight minutes of game time. Vassell got the Seminoles back in rhythm, scoring six straight points in three FSU possessions. FSU’s interior defense continued to be the weakness in the first half, as seven UVA layups made up 58% of the Cavaliers’ points by the U-4 media timeout, as the Cavs held a 24-20 lead.

After the media timeout, FSU went on an 11-0 run behind two Anthony Polite three-pointers and a thunderous dunk from Vassell to end the half. The Seminoles went into the half with a 31-24 lead behind five three pointers as UVA didn’t drain one shot from deep. FSU also caused 11 UVA turnovers in the half. Vassell and Polite led the way with 11 points each, as they combined to shoot 9-13 from the floor and 4-5 from beyond the arc.

UVA came out of the locker room attacking FSU’s interior, scoring three quick layups and cutting the FSU lead down to two. FSU went into the first media timeout of the half up 35-31 after a smooth Vassell jumper. UVA took the lead back with just over 11 minutes remaining in the half after sloppy offensive play led to easy baskets for the Cavs. The ‘Noles responded on a mammoth rejection by Patrick Williams and a transition three-pointer from M.J. Walker to quickly retake the lead. FSU took a three-point lead into the U-8 media timeout.

As one would expect in a UVA game, it was a sloppy, defensive game. UVA and FSU combined to turn the ball over 30 times after just over 30 minutes of game time. The back-and-forth affair continued down the stretch. UVA took the lead back after a 7-0 run with just over five minutes to play. The ‘Noles would have to make a comeback late in the game as they went into the U-4 media timeout down 46-44.

Polite came in the clutch for FSU once again, nailing a three to tie the game with just over two minutes to play. The lefty made all four of his three-point attempts on the night. FSU retook the lead with 1:30 to go on two Forrest free throws after a hard drive to the basket. The Seminoles got the ball right back after a ten-second violation on the Cavaliers after a well-executed trap by the ‘Noles. Vassell put the dagger in UVA with a corner three to extend FSU’s lead to five with 15 seconds left in the game. UVA would make a three of their own, but Vassell would put the finishing touches on the win with two made free throws.

This was not a good game by FSU, maybe even one of their worst of the season, but they pulled out the win with clutch plays down the stretch. No matter how this team plays, they remain calm late in the game and make the clutch plays.

Polite and his clutch shots were the difference in the win. The sophomore has really come on as a shooter this year. Vassell continues to show just how good he is. The two sophomores combined for 32 points in the win.

FSU has now won eight straight games and are 4-1 to start the year in the ACC. A win is a win, especially against the defending national champs. Florida State travels to Miami on Saturday.

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