TALLAHASSEE — Michael Snaer already had a star's reputation at Florida State, and Saturday afternoon he added to it.
With 1:56 remaining in the 21st-ranked Seminoles' game against No. 16 Virginia, the junior guard's 3-pointer from several feet beyond the arc crippled the Cavaliers and helped power the Seminoles to a 58-55 win. A seventh straight ACC victory kept FSU (16-6, 7-1) tied for first in the conference with North Carolina, which beat Maryland 83-74 Saturday.
Duke, a half-game behind, hosts Miami today.
Snaer, who made a winning buzzer-beater at Duke two weeks ago, said Saturday's victory is a clear sign FSU will not be going away soon.
"It says that we're for real. This wasn't a fluke, us beating certain teams," Snaer said. "And we're not going away. It's not like we're the hunted. Everybody wants to say that now. But no, we're still the hunters.''
Cavaliers guard Sammy Zeglinski had been suffocating Snaer much of the game. Snaer was scoreless in the first half and was left looking for space to find an open shot in the second half.
When he finally did, he made Zeglinski pay.
"He was up on me all game trying to make sure I didn't get that shot, and then he backed up off me, and I said, 'Well, you let me have it now,' so I went on and took it," Snaer said. "I knew it was pretty far."
"That was a big shot for them," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "(Snaer will) eye you up, and he will shoot it at any time."
The shot gave the Seminoles a 53-48 lead and was the second of three straight shots Snaer made to help answer a 14-0 run that had given the Cavaliers (18-4, 5-3) a lead and late momentum.
"We weren't too worried about (Virginia's run)," Snaer said. "We knew that as long as we kept getting stops and just trusted in the offense, everything was going to work out."
In addition to Snaer's clutch shooting, the Seminoles employed stifling, aggressive defense. The Cavaliers committed a season-high 20 turnovers.
Though he praised Snaer, FSU coach Leonard Hamilton believed the turnovers were the biggest difference. "The biggest stat was that we made 19 turnovers; they made one more turnover than we did," Hamilton said. "And that one possession could have been the difference in the game."
So, too, could have been a pair of timely blocks.
The Seminoles closed out the first half with a block at the rim by Xavier Gibson with about 25 seconds remaining. It helped preserve a one-point lead.
With 2:30 left in the game, as the Seminoles were beginning to answer the Cavaliers' run, senior forward Bernard James blocked a layup from Jontel Evans to maintain a five-point lead.
"Even though Bernard did not have a great scoring night, his presence in there contesting shots (was good)," Hamilton said. "Whenever you play a team of the quality of a Virginia, all of those possessions count."
Former Clearwater High standout Okaro White came off the bench to score 13, grab five rebounds and help slow Virginia star Mike Scott. "I really try to pinpoint what's going on in the game," White said about watching from the bench in the first few minutes of games. "I know when I go in what I can get."
"Okaro has really settled in to being a go-to guy in the second half," Hamilton said. "Okaro has been making an impact the whole year."