Freshman center Solomon Alabi hit a turnaround jumper that gave No. 25 Florida State a 45-43 lead with 6:27 remaining against Virginia, and the Seminoles would go on to outscore the Cavaliers 23-14 down the stretch to win 68-57, giving them their sixth conference victory of the season.
"I am pleased that we are 6-3 (in the ACC)," Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I feel that we still have a lot of room for improvement."
Florida State (19-5, 6-3 ACC) matched its best start in ACC play, equaling the start of the 1992-93 season, while Virginia (7-13, 1-8 ACC) lost their eighth consecutive conference game.
It didn't always look like the Seminoles would be celebrating their sixth conference victory. The newly ranked 'Noles found themselves trailing 22-20 at the half, largely due to poor shooting (6-for-23) and being dominated on the boards (29-14).
"I thought they had a wonderful gameplan where they were extremely patient," Hamilton said. "They did a very good job. They didn't turn the ball over, we couldn't force them to turn it over. They kept the game at the tempo they wanted to keep it at. They kept fresh guys in there with a lot of energy. I thought they did a much better job rebounding than they did last time and I didn't think we did nearly as an effective job as we have to in order to keep winning."
They got things going in the second half largely due to senior guard Toney Douglas, who scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the closing half, while dishing out seven assists, matching his career-high.
"They have a guy in Douglas who in the second half and the points he has been able to produce after halftime, he showed great poise," Virginia head coach Dave Leitao said. "He always let the game come to him. When he took the game over, he made some big shots early, and played off of his game. He played intellectually."
Douglas wasn't the only Seminole that had double digits in the scoring column. Senior forward Uche Echefu finished with 17 points, matching a season-high, and freshman center Solomon Alabi continued his strong play finishing with 13 points.
Alabi, who also had six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots, earned the admiration of Virginia 's head coach for the player he has become and ultimately will be.
"Obviously, the big fellow (Alabi), every day that he wakes up he gets better and better," Leitao said. "He is going to have a heck of a career here, and a heck of a career after here. It is going to be very difficult for any team to stop him."
The biggest reason the Seminoles were able to pull away down the stretch though was an improved offensive effort. They shot 17-of-24 from the floor in the second half and dished 13 assists, a season-high for a half. Also, as has been the norm all season, the defensive effort inspired the offensive play.
"I thought there in the second half we had a stretch there where we had the stops we had to get," Hamilton said. "We moved the ball and made the extra pass. We shot 70 percent in the second half and a lot of it was because we created opportunities for our teammates."
While Florida State earned the victory, the Seminoles once again struggled with offense in the opening half and failed to effectively rebound. Hamilton knows his squad must correct those issues quickly before Saturday's match-up with No. 7 Wake Forest.
"I have to say that being 6-3 going on the road this weekend, we are pleased with where we are but we realize that in order to go into Winston-Salem on Saturday and get a victory, we are going to have to play better than we did tonight," he said.
With the victory, Florida State moves into third place in the ACC standings behind only Duke and North Carolina.