Similarly to the way Virginia catapulted itself into striking distance during the opening minutes of the second half in a memorable come-from-behind win earlier this week at Michigan is exactly how the Hoos turned a tight tilt with Florida State on Saturday into their seventh straight victory.
The Cavaliers were efficient and full-throttle simultaneously in the initial moments after the break, coming out of the locker room and overwhelming the upset-minded Seminoles en route to a 62-57 ACC-opening win at John Paul Jones Arena.
“You try to see what’s going and where you maybe need to make an adjustment and look at some different things and recommit to it,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “And that’s important for us. And you hope not to be in that spot, but coming out of the halftime is always important.”
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And during Saturday’s bout, Cavaliers senior guard Kihei Clark, who went onto to score 13 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, got the Hoos started with a jumper to erase the 23-22 mark they trailed by at the break.
“Michigan was a good one that way,” Bennett said of his team’s win this past Tuesday over the Wolverines in which UVa used a 14-5 run to jumpstart its victory early in the second half, “and in this game we recommitted to running a little different kind of offense with a little more pace. I thought we were standing around a little bit and spreading out with some quick hitters.”
The Hoos held the lead for the rest of the contest, because Clark’s jump shot began a 13-5 run to stretch their advantage to 34-27 against the Seminoles. The separating spurt included a five-point possession that Florida State was never able to recover from in spite of tightening the score for a smaller margin of defeat in the final minutes.
UVa guard Armaan Franklin knocked down a 3 from the corner, and as the ball went through the bottom of the net, Seminoles forward Naheem McLeod was caught giving a vicious elbow to the face of Cavaliers forward Kadin Shedrick. The result was a flagrant foul and two free throws for Clark, who sank them both.
The run ended with Ben Vander Plas’ layup, prompting Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton to take a timeout to halt the onslaught with 16:34 left.
“It’s really important,” Clark said of beginning the second half with success, “because with teams like this if you let them hang around, and we even still let ‘em hang around in the end, but the gap and the big enough lead you can get makes it easier on yourself later down the stretch. So, coming out in those first four minutes are really important.”
Said Hamilton: “We didn’t have that same level of effort in the beginning of the second half. We got down and we had to try to overcome that.”
The Cavaliers widened their lead to as many as 12 points in the second half at 51-39 with about four minutes left before FSU narrowed the margin.
Vander Plas scored all seven of his points in the second half against the Seminoles after tallying nine of his 10 points at Michigan in the second half.