No. 9 Florida St. 59, No. 21 Virginia 58
Jacinta Monroe had just made the two free throws that gave No. 9 Florida State the lead with 5.9 seconds to play, and there she was, back on defense, seeing Ariana Moorer driving into the lane for an open 6-foot chance at a game-winner.
``Oh no,'' Monroe said she was thinking.
She needn't have worried. Moorer's shot bounced off the front of the rim and harmlessly fell off, allowing the Seminoles to escape with a 59-58 victory highlighted by Monroe's two free throws and Courtney Ward's career-high 29 points, but also pocked by 22 turnovers.
``A win is a win,'' Monroe said, ``but at the same time, we have to tighten up defensively, continue to gel and put things together, put teams away and not leave it to chance.''
They certainly did that at the end, when the 6-foot-5 Monroe said she tried to get a hand in Moorer's face, but didn't want to foul her, leaving Moorer just one chance to win it.
Moorer, who finishedwith 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists, said, ``In my head, I was thinking, 'Don't leave it short. Don't leave it short.' I left it short.''
The Seminoles (24-4, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) would not have been in position to win if not for Ward, who averaged 9.9 points coming into the game. She topped her career high by nine and was 6 for 8 from 3-point territory. Ward was 10 for 14 overall, and had three assists and 10 turnovers.
``It just happened,'' she said of the scoring. ``When I'm open, I shoot. I'm not really worried about that right now. I'm worried about these 10 turnovers.''
The victory was the sixth in a row for Florida State and 10th in 11 games, while the loss ended Virginia's winning streak at five. The outcome also left the Seminoles two games ahead of Virginia in the standings and all but assured them of finishing second in the ACC behind Duke.
The Cavaliers (20-7, 8-4) rallied from a 57-50 deficit to go ahead by a point on Monica Wright's layup off a steal by Chelsea Shine with 25 seconds left. But after failing to come with a loose ball before Monroe was fouled, they had time only for Moorer's one shot.
``We can't let teams back in the game with us,'' said Wright, who led Virginia with 23. ``We have to recognize when we have teams like Florida State, ranked teams, on the ropes.''
The game was close throughout the second half until the Seminoles used a 9-2 run to take a 57-50 lead. Ward hit her sixth 3-pointer in the spree, and two free throws with 2:10 left.
But the Cavaliers rallied, with layups by Wright and Paulisha Kellam making it 57-54 and Wright's steal and two free throws making it a one-point game with 46 seconds left.
After another steal by Wright, Chelsea Shine had her shot blocked by Monroe and Ward came up with the ball, but Shine took it back and fed Wright for the go-ahead layup with 21 seconds to play, setting up the free throws by Monroe and then Moorer's missed chance.
``I couldn't have asked for a better situation,'' Virginia coach Debbie Ryan said of the final shot. Told of Moorer's confession that she was telling herself during the play not to leave it short, Ryan added: ``If that's what you're thinking, that's what's going to happen.''
Florida State led 28-26 at halftime after closing with a flourish. The Seminoles trailed 22-6 after 13 minutes and had 11 turnovers before the fortunes of both teams changed.
After missing 14 of 17 shots to start the game, Florida State hit 9 of 12 the rest of the half. Over a span of 6 minutes, Gray hit three 3-pointers to spark a 22-2 run, giving the Seminoles a 28-24 lead with 1:05 left before Wright hit a pair or free throws.
Virginia was 1 for 6 from the field and had six turnovers during the Seminoles' surge.