TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Although it wasn’t a pretty win in just about any sense, Virginia walked away with a comparatively easy road win Saturday at Florida State with its leader and top scorer watching from the bench after suffering a possible concussion in the opening minutes of the game.
Since smelling salts are no longer the remedy, senior Joe Harris was idled after being “kneed” in the head by a teammate during a scramble for the ball before any points had been scored in the Cavaliers’ 62-50 victory.
“The guys rallied around him,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said afterward, noting that Harris tried to persuade him at the half that he was OK.
But the Cavaliers, who never trailed, were already up 30-17 at the break and weren’t taking any chances. They didn’t need to as it turned out.
Justin Anderson scored 16 points and Akil Mitchell added 11 points along with 13 rebounds Saturday to lead Virginia to a 62-50 win at Florida State in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools.
Virginia (10-4) jumped to an early 6-0 lead and never trailed as it bounced back from an embarrassing 87-52 loss Monday night at Tennessee. The Cavaliers led by as many as 15 in the opening half and 22 in the second half.
“We dug a hole for ourselves,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We kept shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Capitalizing on a 20-2 scoring advantage off 13 Florida State first-half turnovers, Virginia built an early 28-13 lead despite losing Harris.
Anderson and freshman London Perrantes took up the scoring slack for the Cavaliers with 10 points apiece in the opening half. Perrantes finished with 14 points and teammate Malcolm Brogdon added 11.
Harris played less than three minutes without taking a shot before being injured during a scramble for a loose ball. He remained dressed and on the Cavalier bench for the remainder of the game. Virginia officials wouldn’t say what injury Harris suffered, although it appeared he was checked for a possible concussion.
Florida State (9-4) went the opening five minutes without a score until Okaro White’s 3-point shot from the side. White was Florida State’s lone double-digit scorer with 15 points.
Mitchell’s 11 rebounds in the second half alone helped the Cavaliers finish with a 41-38 rebound advantage over the taller Seminoles. And the Cavaliers committed only six turnovers and finished with a 24-4 scoring edge on points off the opponent’s mistakes.
Hamilton said Mitchell has always played well against Florida State.
“He made a big difference,” Hamilton said about the 6-8 Cavalier senior, who spent much of his afternoon dueling with Florida State’s 7-1 Michael Ojo and 7-3 Boris Bojanovsky.
“Did he compete, did he guard,” exclaimed Bennett. “He was fierce both offensively and defensively. That’s Akil.”
The Cavaliers built a 20-point advantage at 41-21 with 14:48 left on an underhanded scoop shot by Malcolm Brogdon. Darion Atkins dunk with 11:07 left gave Virginia its largest lead of the game at 45-23.
Although Virginia didn’t set the world on fire in the opening half when it shot a chilly 34.5 percent,Florida State didn’t do much of anything right.
Plagued by the turnovers and poor shot selection during much of the game, the Seminoles shot 30 percent from the floor. Season scoring leader Ian Miller was held scoreless and committed five turnovers as Virginia pulled away early. Miller got his first points with 9:04 left on a three-point play on a driving layup that he followed just seconds later with a 3-point shot. That pulled the Seminoles to within 47-34.
Virginia escaped with the win despite shooting just 32.8 percent from the floor and 54.5 at the free-throw line, missing a dozen in the second half that allowed Florida State to get within eight at 56-48 with 1:50 left.
Florida State was worse, shooting 30.8 percent from the floor and just 63.6 percent at the free-throw line.
“We’ll bounce back,” Hamilton said. “We always do.”
They visit Clemson on Thursday while Virginia hosts Wake Forest on Wednesday.