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Virginia fights for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament tonight against Florida State.
Steve Helber | The Associated Press
Virginia guard Joe Harris (12) goes up for a shot in front of Duke forward Josh Hairston (15) during the second half.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Obscured by the setting for Virginia’s latest men’s basketball loss and the Cavaliers’ unimpressive road record is a more pressing issue.
The case could be made that the Cavaliers don’t play poorly on the road so much as they finish poorly.
Virginia, which visits Florida State tonight in its continuing effort to sew up an at-large NCAA tournament berth, has lost five road games by four points or fewer.
A 53-52 loss Sunday at Boston College was a classic example. The Cavaliers (20-9, 10-6) led by eight points with under 4 1⁄2 minutes remaining, by five points with under two minutes remaining and by two points with a free throw to go ahead by three with 29 seconds left.
Virginia has had more success at home. The Cavaliers have won 17 consecutive games at John Paul Jones Arena, only one decided by as few as three points, but coach Tony Bennett said even that statistic is misleading.
“We’ve had some games at home where we’ve had big leads and made it more interesting than it needed to be,” said Bennett, clearly referring to a 73-68 victory over Duke in a game the Cavaliers had led by 16 points.
“Mostly, it’s been a part of having a younger team. But, with the parity in college basketball, I think challenges on the road present themselves even more.”
Virginia faces a big-time challenge tonight at Florida State at 7 p.m. The Seminoles (15-14, 7-9) haven’t lost to Virginia in Tallahassee, Fla., since 2001.
Ending that streak could require less suspect clock management than UVa showed Sunday. With 1:16 left, Virginia was leading 51-48 and had close to 15 seconds left on the shot clock when Joe Harris attempted a jumper in the lane that was blocked by Eddie Odio.
Boston College freshman Olivier Hanlan scooped up the loose ball and raced downcourt for a layup — the only fast-break points by either team.
“We were trying to put the ball in our best player’s hands,” Bennett said. “So much of late games comes down to making plays. In the games we’ve been successful, we’ve made plays.”
UVa has relied heavily on its five freshmen, each of whom has started at least once, but juniors Harris and Akil Mitchell were the Cavaliers’ lone double-figure scorers in the Duke and Boston College games.
“Most of our freshmen have struggled of late scoring the ball,” Bennett said. “I think we played hard. We looked flat, a little worn down. On the road at this time of the season, those are all realities. The tank isn’t going to be as full.”
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