Snaer, who has earned a reputation as one of the country's top clutch players after hitting five winning buzzer-beaters in his career, lifted Florida State to a 53-51 victory over Virginia on Thursday night with a left-handed floater that erased Virginia's one-point lead with 4.4 seconds remaining.
“I knew I was getting the ball at the end of the game,” said Snaer, who moved passed former Seminoles great and Basketball Hall-of-Famer Dave Cowens for 10th place on the school's career scoring list. “And I knew that I was going to make the play some way, somehow.”
The senior guard was fouled on the play. He made the ensuing free throw and then for good measure knocked the ball loose as time expired on Virginia's final possession.
“It comes down to those situations making a play either offensively or defensively,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We fought to get ourselves in that spot and couldn't come away with it.”
Snaer's heroics came after the Cavaliers mounted a furious rally in the final six-plus minutes. Trailing 47-36 with 6:32 to play, Virginia went on a 15-3 run to claim its first lead since midway through the first half.
The run was sparked in large part by Akil Mitchell, who finished with a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds), and Joe Harris, who added 13 points.
Mitchell helped Virginia by grabbing six offensive boards, but he missed a contested layup with 20 seconds to go that would have stretched the Cavaliers' lead to 53-50.
“It was a valiant effort to come back,” Bennett said. “They were on the glass. They were aggressive and we couldn't match it. They were getting too many easy looks.
”In the second half, midway through, we got the right mind-set and fought for everything. To get ourselves in that position to win it, they finished stronger.“
With their win, the Seminoles (16-14, 8-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) are guaranteed to finish no worse than .500, a requirement to participate in the National Invitation Tournament. The Seminoles play host to North Carolina State on Saturday in their regular-season finale.
Virginia (20-10, 10-7) lost its second consecutive game since toppling No. 3 Duke last week.
Okaro White had 17 points and six rebounds for Florida State, which won for just the third time in its past eight games.
Snaer finished with 14 points, and guard Devon Bookert contributed nine points and three assists without committing a turnover. The freshman also secured the rebound on Mitchell's last miss.
”Tonight, we showed signs of that junkyard dog defense that we've been playing over a number of years,“ Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. ”(Virginia) is a good team. Overall, I thought we didn't give them as many open looks as we had the last time we played against them. I thought our guys were a little more conscious, a little more mentally into executing the defensive game plan.“
White scored 13 points in the first 20 minutes to help Florida State to a 26-23 halftime lead. His outburst was part of a 10-3 Florida State run that erased Virginia's 12-9 lead midway through the half.
Each team struggled to find its offensive footing in the first 20 minutes. Virginia jumped out to a 6-2 lead, but by the 10-minute mark, both teams combined for just 21 points.
From there, White scored 11 of the Seminoles' remaining 15 points for the rest of the half.
NOTES: Both teams came into Thursday struggling. The Cavaliers had lost three of their last five -- including a 53-42 setback at Boston College -- and the Seminoles' only wins in the past month have come against lowly Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest. … Florida State entered the game as the ACC leader in blocked shots with 147 (5.1 per game). The Seminoles had six blocks Thursday. … Virginia is currently on a 17-game losing streak in games played in the state of Florida. That stretch includes a 10-game skid at Florida State.
FLORIDA STATE 53, VIRGINIA 51
VIRGINIA (20-10, 10-7): Ak.Mitchell 6-10 3-3 15, Je.Harris 5-15 2-2 13, Jesperson 2-7 0-0 5, Js.Anderson 2-3 0-0 4, Jt.Evans 1-8 0-0 2, Barnette 0-1 0-0 0, D.Atkins 0-0 0-0 0, Nolte 0-2 0-0 0, Tobey 6-9 0-0 12, Tv.Jones 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-57 5-5 51.
FLORIDA ST. (16-14, 8-9): Aa.Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Bookert 3-5 1-1 9, M.Brandon 0-3 0-0 0, Ojo 0-0 0-0 0, Snaer 6-14 1-1 14, Bojanovsky 1-2 0-0 2, Gilchrist 0-0 0-0 0, I.Miller 0-2 0-0 0, O.White 6-9 4-4 17, Turpin 5-8 1-2 11. Totals 21-44 7-8 53.
Half—FSU 26-23 3-point goals—U.Va. 2-14 (Jesperson 1-5, Je.Harris 1-6, Js.Anderson 0-1, Nolte 0-1, Barnette 0-1), FSU 4-9 (Bookert 2-2, Snaer 1-2, O.White 1-2, Aa.Thomas 0-1, I.Miller 0-2). Rebounds—U.Va. 33 (Ak.Mitchell 12), FSU 25 (O.White 6). Assists—U.Va. 7 (Ak.Mitchell 3), FSU 10 (Bookert 3). Fouls—Virginia 13, FSU 10. A—6,430.