FSU vs. UVA: Three Keys to Victory

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The Florida State men’s basketball team will take on the top team in the ACC, Virginia, later tonight at 7 p.m. in the ACC Tournament semi-finals on ESPN. The Seminoles will need to muster up one of their best performances of the year if they’re going to make the conference championship game for the first time since the program won it back in 2012.

To put it lightly, Virginia is pretty good. The Cavaliers are 29-2 and haven’t lost since February 9. They’ve won nine straight games and five of their last six wins have been by double digits. Tony Bennett’s squad is led by a trio of double-digit scorers in juniors Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome and sophomore De’Andre Hunter. It’s going to take all of FSU’s focus and effort to advance but this is what March is all about. A win against Virginia would cement the ‘Noles as a 4 seed and would push them even further into the conversation for a 3 seed come Selection Sunday.

1. Shoot the three at a high percentage

The Cavaliers make almost nine three’s a game on 41.6% shooting from behind the arc. FSU is going to need to match that number or better it to come out of this game with the win. The ‘Noles currently make 7.5 treys per game on 33.3% shooting from deep. When they played each other earlier this season, the ‘Noles finished just 6/23 (26.1%) from three. In the contest against Virginia Tech, Leonard Hamilton’s squad knocked down 12/31 (38.7%) of its shots behind the arc, including huge performances from Devin Vassell (4/7 3PT), Phil Cofer (3/5 3PT), and PJ Savoy (2/3 3PT).

They’ll need to do much of the same against a Virginia defense that might be the best in the country. If Florida State’s scorers can knock down shots consistently, it’ll open up the middle of the defense for bigs like Mfiondu Kabengele and Christ Koumadje to work down in the post.

2. Limit turnovers

Virginia boasts the top scoring defense in the nation, holding opponents to just 54.6 points per game with its grind it out style of play. That means the Seminoles can’t afford to waste many possessions or this game will go to much of the same tune as when these two teams matched up in January, ugly. FSU trailed 42-23 at the half and was completely overmatched on the road, shooting 34.1% and turning the ball over 15 times. They’ve averaged 13.6 turnovers per game over the season and the coaching staff will need to keep their eyes on that number during the game against the Cavaliers.

Yesterday, the ‘Noles continued to struggle with turnovers, giving the ball away 17 times in a two-point win over Virginia Tech. However, the Hokies struggled from deep and the free throw line which was eventually one of the main factors in Florida State pulling out a clutch win. Hamilton is going to need Trent Forrest (three turnovers) and Mfiondu Kabengele (four turnovers) to get back on track with their ball security against UVA.

3. Harass Virginia on defense

Florida State, like Virginia, is an excellent defensive team. Both teams stay locked in on defense for the entirety of games and I expect this semi-final matchup to look slightly similar to the Virginia Tech game yesterday. It’s not going to be easy for either offense in this one and it’ll be imperative for the ‘Noles to be aggressive and harassing against the Cavaliers top scorers all night.

In its only two losses of the season, both to Duke, slowing down Virginia’s Guy, Jerome, and Hunter was the main focal point for the opposition. In those losses, the three combined to shoot 36/74 (48.6%) from the field, 9/32 from deep (28.1%), and 8/12 from the line (66.7%). Guy went off against FSU earlier this season for 21 points on 5/6 shooting from behind the arc and he’s continued to stay hot as of late. The junior guard scored 29 points while hitting seven of his nine attempts (77.7%) from three-point range against NC State in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday.

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