On Senior Day, it was a pair of juniors that carried the 'Noles to victory. Breaking out of his scoring slump big time was Tim Pickett with 32 points. But, Pickett didn't stop there as he pulled down 11 boards. Add 3 steals to boot. Michael Joiner poured in 12 second half points finishing with 15. Joiner's back to back three-pointers ignited a 19-4 run in the second half that broke open a tie game.
A second half defensive effort on the boards and on the perimeter just completely stymied Virginia. AFter trailing by 3 at the half and by 14 in the rebound column, Leonard Hamilton said they made the necessary adjustments in the locker room. Those were mainly "mental adjustments" that focused on hitting the boards. The 25-11 rebound deficit tightened up considerably at the end with the 'Noles outrebounded by just seven, 39-32.
On the perimeter, Hamilton credited Todd Galloway's second half defense on Todd Billet. Billet, who led the Cavs with 19 points, scored only two over the the last twenty minutes and only when the game was out of reach. The transfer from Rutger was 5 of 6 from behind the arc in the first half. With the Cavs deep threat shut down, they finished 8 of 24 after shooting 7 of 15.
Virginia opened up a 21-13 lead on the strength of 5 three-point baskets, three by Billet. The Cavs threatened to bury Florida State early. Joiner's wide-open three from above the key followed by the second most spectacular play of the game closed it to 21-18. Pickett stole the ball from Devin Smith. As he raced down the court he eluded the defender with a shake and bake spin move and finger rolled the ball in.
Following another Billet three from the right wing, Pickett made up for being knocked down on that play. He located his favorite spot on the left wing elbow keeping FSU within three points, 24-21.
The first half continued as the Pickett and BIllet show. Galloway hit Pickett as he ran the baselline and spotted up from the right corner for the three ball. Billet answered with a tremendous up and under move along the baseline. Pickett answered that with a three-pointer to tie it at 27 with 7:01 left in the half.
FSU took a 30-28 lead fifty seconds later. Displaying the kind of hustle Seminole fans have come to enjoy from him, Pickett dove on the floor for teh offensive rebound and tapped it over to Nate Johnson. He was rewarded when Johnson got him the ball back wide open at the top of the key.
Billet gave Virginia a 33-32 lead when two Seminoles collided on a busted defensive play. Travis Watson, sitting much of the first half for the fifth consecutive game for missing a class, rebounded a Nick Vander Laan shot giving the Cavaliers a 37-34 halftime lead.
In what had to be the ugliest two and a half minutes of basketball, both teams were adept at nothing more than turning the ball over. Steals and bad passes highlighted the box score. FSU got its act together though with a putback by Joiner off a Johnson missed three attempt. After Anthony Richardson hit one of two from the free throw line, Joiner canned back to back threes; one from the left corner and the other from the key.
That seemed to get the rest of the team involved in the offense as five different Seminoles scored over the next 6:06. Trevor Harvey slam-dunked Richardson's missed shot with one hand to end a 19-4 FSU run. The 'Noles now led 56-41 with 8:56 remaining.
A minute later Pickett's three-pointer from above the key gave FSU its largest lead 61-45.
The closest Virgina would get was 12 points. With FSU running the clock, Joiner essentially sealed the win with a layup with 2:12 to play. Although he missed the free throw on that play, Pickett grabbed the rebound. He made it a 17 point lead 70-53 with only 1:31 to play on two free throws.
Hamilton emptied his bench as Virginia continued to foul substituting with players who rarely see the court. Marcel Haywood was the first one in. Haywood had the most spectacular play of the day with a cross over behind the back dribble penetration layup and a 73-57 lead.
Prior to the game, seniors Mike Mathews, Trevor Harvey, Marcel Haywood, and Nate Moran along with manager Patrick McGhee were honored. Although Mathews took part in the ceremony, the partial qualifier could get a fifth year back should he graduate after taking courses in both summer sessions this year. He assured this reporter he would be back for next season.
With the win Florida State improves to 13-13, 4-11. The Seminoles keep their NIT hopes alive with a huge opportunity next Thursday at Duke. Florida State has never won at Cameron. Tip off is at 7:30 PM.