The Daily Nole

Preview: Noles Visit Virginia in Top 20 Match-up

Phil Kelly/FSU athletics

No. 20 Florida State will face its stiffest test yet on Saturday as the Seminoles continue ACC play in Charlottesville against 12th-ranked Virginia. FSU won its ACC opener for the first time in four years on Wednesday thanks to a 27-6 run to close the game in a victory over Wake Forest.

The Cavaliers made a real statement in their last game as they went into Louisville and defeated the sixth-ranked Cardinals, 61-53. Virginia lost to Florida State in Tallahassee by a score of 69-62 last season. Virginia had won four straight in the series. The Seminoles haven’t won in Charlottesville since March 2012 when Ian Miller hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap an improbable FSU comeback.

The Match-Up

Who: No. 20 Florida State Seminoles (13-1, 1-0 ACC) at No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers (11-1, 1-0 ACC)
When: Saturday, Dec. 31 at 2 p.m. EST (ESPNU)
Where: John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Key Players

For Florida State: Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes are each coming off 23-point efforts against Wake Forest to lead a very good and deep FSU backcourt. Bacon is averaging better than 17 points per game while Rathan-Mayes is scoring nearly 11 per contest to go along with a team-high 4.6 assists per game. Freshman forward Jonathan Isaac got back into double-figures after a mini rut. The 6-10 phenom can score inside or out and is averaging nearly 13 points and a team-best 7.2 rebounds per game.

For Virginia: Virginia doesn’t have a single player who averages in double-figures scoring, but has eight that average at least six. The offense goes through London Perrantes, who averages 9.9 points and 4.5 assists — both team-highs. Freshman Kyle Guy is averaging better than nine points while shooting 57 percent from the field. The Cavaliers have a good trio of bigs in Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt and Isaiah Wilkins.

What to Watch For

Tempo: Florida State and Virginia have both been efficient on offense, but the teams play completely different styles. The Seminoles are more apt to get out in run while the Cavaliers operate primarily from the half court and really shorten the game. Both teams will look to implement their style on Saturday and the team that does it best should like its chances.

Point guards: FSU redshirt junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes got the better of a good Wake Forest point guard in Bryant Crawford on Wednesday. London Perrantes is a different animal with incredible quickness and great court vision. Perrantes is inconsistent as a shooter, but does a great job getting others their shots and will certainly make Rathan-Mayes work on the defensive end. Perrantes scored 19 points against FSU last season while Rathan-Mayes scored 11 in the win over the Cavaliers. C.J. Walker has also been very good for the Seminoles off the bench.

The battle on the glass: Both teams have a handful of competent big men, but the size advantage will certainly lie on the side of FSU. Michael Ojo, a 7-1 graduate, and Christ Koumadje, a 7-4 sophomore, have made immense improvement this season and the Seminoles have continued to hold competent bigs in check even as the competition has ramped up. The trio of Mamadi Diakite, Jack Salt and Isaiah Wilkins should give FSU a challenge. As a team, the Cavaliers rank second in the ACC in defensive rebound percentage and fifth in rebound margin.

Jonathan Isaac: Following a hip flexor injury that forced him to miss three games, freshman forward Jonathan Isaac was held to under 10 points in three straight games after scoring in double-figures in each of his first seven collegiate games. In Wednesday’s 88-72 win over Wake Forest, Isaac wasn’t overly efficient, but finished with 12 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Down the stretch, Isaac had the 3-pointer that put the Seminoles ahead for good and a nasty put-back dunk. As good as Virginia is defensively, few teams have the personnel to adequately match up with Isaac.

Number to Pay Attention To

48.8: That’s the percentage FSU shot last season in its 69-62 win over Virginia. In Virginia’s only loss this season, it allowed West Virginia to shoot 45 percent. Virginia leads the ACC in field goal percentage defense at 34.7 percent while FSU leads the ACC and ranks seven nationally in field goal percentage at 51.3 percent.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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