Virginia has made a name for itself with efficiency. Florida State matched that efficiency and raised it with relentless energy — handing the Cavaliers their worst Atlantic Coast Conference loss in nearly four years.
M.J. Walker scored 17 points and RaiQuan Gray scored 15 points as No. 16 Florida State pulled ahead early and held off No. 7 Virginia’s late runs, 81-60 on Monday.
Walker drilled five of Florida State’s season-high 13 3-pointers as the Seminoles (12-3, 8-2) won a showdown of the top two teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Gray scored in double figures for a seventh straight game for the Seminoles, who have won 24 straight ACC home games, a streak that dates to a Jan. 22, 2019 win over Clemson.
“When we’re locked in on the game plan, I think we can guard anybody in the country,” Gray said. “We can play anybody in the country when we’re locked in and focused on our opponent and the game plan and execute it. We have to keep that focus the rest of the year.”
Florida State has matched up with Virgina quite well, taking four of its last five games on its home court in the series.
How lopsided was this game? It was the Cavaliers’ largest ACC loss since a 24-point defeat at North Carolina in Feb. 2017. And FSU’s 81 points were the most vs. Virginia since the Seminoles scored 87 in a Jan. 2006 overtime win.
“Florida State is unlike a lot of teams that we’ll play because they make every catch hard,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “They switch every screen, ball screen, off-ball screen and they force you to spread the court, try to move a little bit and touch the paint, get aggressive and then you’ve got to make the next pass. … It challenges you.”
FSU improved to 10-9 all-time against Bennett.
Trey Murphy III scored 13 points and Kihei Clark added 12 second-half points for Virginia (15-4, 11-2), which had won four straight games.
Florida State jumped on Virginia early. Gray and Walker had nine points apiece as the Seminoles drilled 6 of 10 3-pointer en route to a stunning 45-25 halftime lead.
Murphy’s 3-pointer closed the deficit to seven, 48-41, with 14:24 to go but the Cavaliers couldn’t cut into the lead any further.
FSU’s bench did what FSU’s bench normally does, outscoring Virginia’s reserves 37-20.
Balsa Koprivica returned after turning his ankle pregame against Wake Forest, scoring nine points and pulling down three rebounds — including his first 3-pointer of the season. The FSU center played the role of rim protector well, as Clark did most of his damage early in the second half when Koprivica was on the sideline.
Scottie Barnes had seven points, six assists and two steals. Anthony Polite added eight points and was aggressive on defense, picking up two steals. Sardaar Calhoun had a pair of timely three-pointers.
“We got a tremendous amount of energy from everyone who came in the game,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought that allowed us to play at a very, very high level for the entire game.”
Walker is now seven points away from 1,000 for his career.
Virginia was sluggish early with eight first-half turnovers and couldn’t match Florida State’s energy. The Cavaliers had kept Florida State under 70 points in its previous 19 games but couldn’t do it on Monday.
Florida State showed off its depth and defense, securing its biggest win of the season with the type of shooting efficiency Virginia usually displays.
For the full FSU-Virginia box score, click here.
Florida State plays host to Virginia Tech on Saturday at noon (ACC Network).