Pound for pound, pressure for pressure. Florida State kept raising its game.
And knocked off the defending national champions.
Devin Vassell scored 18 points including a 3-pointer and a pair of free-throw attempts in the final seconds as No. 9 Florida State won its eighth straight game, 54-50 on Wednesday over Virginia.
Anthony Polite came off the bench to drill four 3-pointers for the Seminoles (15-2, 5-1 ACC), who have won 15 of their last 16 games. Polite had a career-high 14 points.
“Some people will say this was not a very pretty game,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It was beautiful to me.”
Early on, with FSU struggling, Polite hit three 3-pointers — including one at the halftime buzzer to put the Seminoles up 31-24.
Virginia clawed back into the game and the lead changed hands down the stretch. Kihei Clark gave the Cavaliers a 46-44 lead with 5:23 to go but the teams traded baskets before Polite tied it at 47 with 2:27 left.
It was almost all FSU from there. Vassell knocked down a 3-pointer and hit a pair of free-throw attempts, while Trent Forrest made two of three free-throw attempts. Virginia couldn’t respond, turning it over three times and making just a 3-pointer in that stretch.
Mamadi Diakite scored 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting for Virginia (11-5, 3-3 ACC), who turned it over 18 times and made just 21 shots from the floor. Tomas Woldetensae was 3 of 4 from 3-point range but the rest of the Cavaliers were 0 for 11 from beyond the arc.
Trent Forrest had five points, seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals.
Florida State has won 15 of its last 16 games since a season-opening loss.
The Seminoles began the season as an unranked opponent and have climbed all the way to No. 9. They have accumulated wins over ranked teams like Florida, Louisville and Tennessee. And now they have knocked off Virginia who are unranked but are the defending champions.
“We feel like we’ve always been the underdogs,” Vassell said. “We haven’t had that spotlight on us. Every game, we’re getting everybody’s best shot.”
TUCK TALKING POINTS
FSU had to make 3-pointers to win and at times couldn’t hit them. But none were bigger than Polite’s three 3s in the first half and then a corner 3-pointer late in the game. The Seminoles finished 8 of 22 from beyond the arc.
Defense was critical. And it was FSU’s as much as Virginia’s vaunted pack-line defense. The Seminoles forced Virginia to commit 18 turnovers. FSU had 10 steals and five blocks.
“Their pressure bothered us a times,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “There were some unforced errors or self-inflicted wounds. Their pace gets you a little frantic.”
TOP 5 FOR HAMILTON
Hamilton has won 160 ACC games in 18 seasons at Florida State, tying him with Frank McGuire (North Carolina and South Carolina) for fifth most in league history.
With Wednesday’s win, Florida State took a 26-25 lead in the all-time series.
Florida State is at Miami on Saturday at 1 p.m. (ACC Network).