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January 4, 2014

FSU drops ACC opener 62-50 in failed comeback bid

There was no question that Virginia would wait for Florida State to make mistakes in Saturday's ACC opener. Once Florida State started to make them, the Seminoles faced an uphill battle to regain control.

Florida State (9-4, 0-1 ACC) trailed 45-23 with 11:07 to go before mounting a comeback and pulling within seven points in the closing minutes. But the Seminoles couldn't recover from their deficit as Virginia (10-4 1-0 ACC) regained control to win 62-50 at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. Virginia made a pair of 3-pointers early to take a 6-0 lead and never trailed.

"I thought they did a much better job of sticking with their game plan than we did with ours," FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It wasn't like we didn't understand that they were one of the better defensive teams in the country."

Virginia held FSU to a season-low 17 points in the first half. After entering the game with a four-game winning streak, the Seminoles saw their momentum come to an abrupt halt. The Seminoles had 12 turnovers in the first half and shot just 30.8 percent (16-52) from the field for the game.

Some of those issues were resolved in the second half, as the 'Noles limited their turnovers and clamped down on Virginia's 3-point shooting. FSU used 14-3 run to cut the lead to 48-37 and eventually pulled within seven after White made a 3-pointer with 2:55 to go, but could come no closer. White missed another three on the next possession that would have pulled Florida State within two possessions, and Virginia responded by grabbing a pair of offensive rebounds before drawing a foul.

"They were the toughest team tonight," Hamilton said. "And obviously, we invented ways to turn the ball over in the first half."

Virginia had no problem taking advantage of FSU's miscues early on. The Seminoles' 13 turnovers in the first half became 20 of the Cavaliers' 30 points before the break.

"That's the ball game right there," White said.

The Cavs had their share of shooting issues, but knocked down timely 3-pointers and limited their mistakes. Virginia had just six turnovers and moved the ball well even after leading scorer Joe Harris suffered a head injury early in the game. Harris didn't pass concussion tests after his head collided with Virginia forward Akil Mitchell's knee.

It was a step back for the Seminoles, who had won 11 straight against the Cavaliers in Tallahassee before the loss. FSU entered conference play with a winning streak and a chance to enter the top 25. It left the game against Virginia with a lesson learned against a team recovering from a 35-point loss to Tennessee.

"They didn't play their best basketball," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Florida State. "They were a little out of sorts That's a talented, well-coached team. To come in here and get one on the road, it's significant."

White led Florida State with 15 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Ian Miller struggled mightily before fouling out in the closing minutes, finishing with six points on 2-8 shooting with seven turnovers.

Sophomore guard Justin Anderson led all scorers with 16 points for Virginia while adding five rebounds and four assists. Mitchell had 11 points and 13 rebounds.

"The only good thing about this is that it's early in the season," Hamilton said. "Hopefully this will be a game we'll learn from. The challenge now, as we go to Clemson, is that they play a similar type of defense. We're going to have to do a much better job of executing."

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