Tony Bennett said he looked up at the scoreboard with about 14 minutes to play on Saturday against Florida State. His Virginia team had allowed 47 points by then and the Cavaliers trailed by 16. Their deficit wasn't getting any smaller.
"We were down 16 and I said, 'This can't be,' " Bennett said later.
But it was. Then, gradually, Bennett began to like what he saw.
Virginia cut Florida State's lead to 13 and then to 11. Then it was a 7-point game with four minutes to play and the Cavaliers were down four 50 seconds later. They trailed by just three with 72 seconds to play and that's as close as they came before suffering a 63-56 defeat — Virginia's fourth in its past five games.
The Cavaliers never recovered from the 19-4 run they allowed Florida State (18-7, 8-3) during the final 9-and-a-half minutes of the first half. But Virginia didn't fold, either, and Bennett spoke with pride about that.
"It's hard," he said. "You look at them in the locker room and you say, 'You know, you're fighting, you're getting close.' And that can sound old. But I said, what's the alternative? Just don't go backwards."
The Cavaliers (12-12, 3-7) shot just 31.7 percent but Virginia made enough shots — the vast majority of them 3-pointers — to make things interesting late. Eight of Virginia's 10 second-half field goals were 3s.
Virginia made 11 of them overall — nine of them coming from Joe Harris and Sammy Zeglinski, who led Virginia with 19 points. Harris finished with 17.
Strangely, Virginia suffered through its worst stretch of the game after the Seminoles' Chris Singleton left with 9:46 to play in the first half. Singleton scored 11 of his team's first 13 points and was the Seminoles' lone positive amid an otherwise poor start.
An X-ray revealed Singleton, Florida State's leading scorer and the ACC's reigning defensive player of the year, had suffered a fracture in his right foot. Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton acknowledged that Singleton could possibly miss the rest of the season.
"You never know the timeframe that it takes for different people to heal," Hamilton said. "… It can be from whatever to whatever. A lot just depends on his recovery time. But that's going to cause us to have to readjust again."
Florida State did that on Saturday, for one game at least. After Singleton left, the Seminoles went on that 19-4 run to close out the half.
"I don't know," Florida State junior Bernard James said, trying to explain why the Seminoles played better after Singleton left. "Maybe that's because we felt like we didn't have Chris as that cushion for us."
Florida State led 34-23 at halftime and stretched the lead to 16 points before the Cavaliers began their methodical rally. James, who finished with 7 points, 8 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, was one of the reasons why the Cavaliers relied so heavily on their perimeter shooting.
It seemed that every time Virginia attempted to penetrate, James "was playing paddle ball with our shots," Bennett said.
Virginia's defeat was its 14th consecutive in Florida. The Cavaliers haven't won in this state since 2001, when it beat Florida State at the Donald L. Tucker Center. That streak of futility didn't end on Saturday, but Bennett and his team left hoping they could build off a loss that could have been more lopsided than it turned out to be.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times