The Cavaliers, who entered with just one win in Quadrant 1 games, outlasted the visiting Seminoles 61-56 for their best win of the season. The reigning national champions used a familiar defensive recipe to slow down a Florida State offense that entered the game second in the ACC in scoring at 76 points per game.
Virginia (14-6, 6-4 ACC) entered the week on the outside of the NCAA Tournament field, according to Jerry Palm’s latest Bracketology. But a win over Florida State (17-3, 7-2) could be the jolt that Tony Bennett’s team needs to get back in the tournament picture. The Seminoles had won 10 straight, a stretch that included an impressive 78-65 win at Louisville earlier this month.
Florida State (17-3, 7-2) failed to reach 60 points for just the second time this season. The other time came in a 54-50 home victory over Virginia on Jan. 15. Mamadi Diakite led Virginia with 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting. The Cavaliers outrebounded Florida State 36-23.
The Cavaliers still have work to do: Virginia entered as one of seven teams in the top 60 of the NET with more than one loss against Quadrant 3 or 4 opponents. Those losses — to Quadrant 3 foes South Carolina and Boston College — have tainted the resume of a team picked to finish fourth in the ACC by media before the season. The Cavaliers also entered Tuesday’s game having lost four of their last six, a stretch that included home losses to Syracuse and North Carolina State. Tuesday’s win was a nice jolt for their tournament chances, but the Cavaliers still need to find consistency.
Virginia got a reprieve from its 3-point shooting woes: The Cavaliers hit an efficient 5-of-12 3-pointers on Tuesday, led by Diakite’s 3-for-3 outing. It was a nice change of pace for a team struggling to shoot. In their last four losses, Virginia made just 16-of-74 shots from 3-point range, a 21.6% clip that is emblematic of their overall struggles from outside this season. A drop-off was expected with departures of quality 3-point shooters De’Andre Hunter (43.8%) Kyle Guy (42.6%) and Ty Jerome (39.9%) from last season’s roster. But after leading the ACC in 3-point shooting percentage at 40.9% on the way to a national title, the Cavaliers entered Tuesday’s game shooting a league-worst 26.8% from deep this season. More efforts like the one Virginia got from deep on Tuesday will be necessary if the team wants to make noise in the postseason.
Diakite is balling: The 6-foot-9 senior forward is one of few Cavaliers showing improvement from beyond the arc. He entered Tuesday’s game hitting 35.1% of his 3-pointers on 1.9 attempts per game, which is up from 29.4% on 0.4 attempts per game last season. He is averaging a team-high 13.2 points per game after finishing last season fourth on the team in scoring behind Hunter, Jerome and Guy, all of whom were selected in the NBA Draft. Diakite is averaging 14.8 points over his last six games.