TALLAHASSEE — M.J. Walker scored 17 and No. 16 Florida State built a big first-half lead, beating No. 7 Virginia 81-60 on Monday night in a showdown between the top two teams in the ACC.
RaiQuan Gray had 15 points for the Seminoles (12-3, 8-2), and Walker made five of FSU’s season-high 13 3-pointers — on 24 attempts.
Gray scored in double figures for the seventh straight game. FSU has won 24 consecutive ACC home games dating to a victory over Clemson on Jan. 22, 2019.
Trey Murphy had 13 points and Kihei Clark added 12 in the second half for Virginia (15-4, 11-2), which had won four straight.
Gray and Walker had nine points apiece as the Seminoles went 6 of 10 on 3-pointers on the way to a 45-25 halftime lead.
“We can play anybody in the country when we’re locked in and focused on our opponent and the game plan and execute it,” Gray said. “We have to keep that focus the rest of the year.”
Murphy’s 3-pointer closed the deficit to 48-41 with 14:24 left, but the Cavaliers got no closer.
Virginia was sluggish early with eight first-half turnovers and couldn’t match FSU’s energy. The Cavaliers had held the Seminoles under 70 points in their previous 19 meetings.
“If you want a chance to beat a team of this caliber, or that is playing at this level in this setting, you can’t be sometimes really good defensively,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
It was the Cavaliers’ largest ACC defeat since falling 65-41 at North Carolina on Feb. 18, 2017.
FSU’s depth again was a big factor. Balsa Koprivica (nine points), Anthony Polite (eight), Scottie Barnes (seven) and Sardaar Calhoun (six) helped the Seminoles’ bench outscore Virginia’s reserves 37-20.
”We got a tremendous amount of energy from everyone who came in the game,” coach Leonard Hamilton said. “I thought that allowed us to play at a very, very high level for the entire game.”
Koprivica, a sophomore center, returned after turning his ankle pregame against Wake Forest. He pulled down three rebounds and hit his first 3-pointer of the season. That shot as well as an 18-footer were among the big baskets for FSU in the second half.
Koprivica played the role of rim protector well, as Clark did most of his damage early in the second half when Koprivica was on the bench. Koprivica also blocked one of Clark’s second-half shots.
— By BOB FERRANTE