Florida St.-Virginia Preview

Mike Scott and Virginia’s senior class are close to reaching the
NCAA tournament for the first time.

Another milestone for them could happen Thursday night.

Scott’s class hopes to earn its first victory over No. 22
Florida State when the No. 24 Cavaliers play their home finale.

Virginia (21-7, 8-6 ACC) is in its third season under coach Tony
Bennett and will likely make its first NCAA appearance since 2007.
That was the season before Scott and fellow fifth-year senior Sammy
Zeglinski arrived on campus.

“I know they really have said it before, they wanna leave the
program in a real good spot,” Bennett said. “Their desire to finish
strong, to hopefully push us into postseason play, all those things
would really I think be a great thing for them, and that’s why I’ve
said going into senior night you hope we really play with the right
kind of passion and focus, all of the things needed to be
successful.”

Scott leads the conference in field-goal percentage at 57.3
while averaging a career-best 16.9 points. He will want to fare
better in his final game at John Paul Jones Arena after being held
to a season-low six points on 3-of-13 shooting there in Saturday’s
54-51 loss to then-No. 7 North Carolina.

The 6-foot-8 forward will try to help Virginia end a six-game
slide against Florida State (19-9, 10-4). Scott’s 8.2 scoring
average in five games against the Seminoles is his worst against
any ACC foe.

“This is their senior night, their last home game,” Seminoles
coach Leonard Hamilton said. “That always becomes an emotional
game.”

Scott’s best effort against Florida State came Feb. 4, when he
had 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting and 11 boards in a 58-55 road
loss. That sloppy contest featured 39 turnovers, with a season-high
20 by the Cavaliers.

Virginia averages an ACC-low 11.3 turnovers while Florida State
forces an average of 15.8 for the conference’s best mark.

The season-long problem for the Seminoles, however, has been
their ACC-worst 16.5 turnovers per game. They had 18 in Sunday’s
78-62 loss at Miami.

“We’ve never been a great passing team, and we’ve been
abominable for turnovers, but we seem to have always kept finding
ways to win regardless of our shortcoming,” Hamilton said.

The Seminoles are seeking to avoid losing three straight ACC
games for the first time since Jan. 26-Feb. 3, 2008. They have
allowed opponents to shoot 45.8 percent (22 of 48) on 3-pointers in
consecutive defeats, normally a strength for Florida State at 30.4
percent.

“In both of those games, those teams shot exceptionally well,”
Hamilton said. “I’m not really sure there was that much different
(defensively) in what it has been all year.”

Florida State’s 3-point defense will be keying on Virginia’s
best perimeter shooter in Joe Harris, averaging 16.5 points in two
career matchups. Harris scored 12 points Saturday after totaling 10
over his previous three games while playing with protective padding
on a broken left hand suffered Feb. 11 against the Tar Heels.

“I think he is more mentally comfortable with it now, but I also
think it is physically feeling better because of the time that has
elapsed since he injured it originally,” Bennett said.

The Seminoles can clinch a first-round bye in the ACC tournament
with a win while the Cavs are in contention for one as well.