For a team like No. 24 Virginia, a team that is trying to qualify for its first NCAA Tournament since 2007, having finally crept its way back to the top of the ACC, this kind of heartbreak is hard to bear.
It was hard the first time, and the second time, and the third time, and the fourth time, and this is the fifth.
No. 22 Florida State closed Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers on a 16-2 run, storming back from an 11-point deficit with four minutes to play, and stealing the 63-60 win in Charlottesville, Va.
Ian Miller’s three-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining was the dagger. He finished with 18 points.
But the heartbreak. Oh, the heartbreak for Virginia.
This is their fifth loss of the season by less than three points (out of eight total defeats). Imagine, for a moment, where the Cavaliers would be, had they been able to win just two of those games.
That would put them at 23-6, having at least one win over a major ACC contender, and still in the race for a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament.
Instead, here they are, still 21-8 and 8-7 in conference play, tied for fourth with NC State, Clemson, and Miami, but they really shouldn’t be.
The Cavaliers are second in the nation in scoring defense, giving up just 52 points per game, turning the ball over just 11 times per contest, and shooting a solid 46% from the field.
From the eye test, it looks like the inability to have that extra push to get them over the top at the end of ballgames.
In their first matchup with Florida State on February 4th, the Cavaliers couldn’t get a key three-pointer in the final minute and lost.
Against Duke, they came back from being down nine with five minutes to play, but couldn’t get a three-pointer to fall in the final minutes.
Then history repeats itself Thursday night, as Virginia couldn’t get a field goal in the final five minutes and the Seminoles were able to spoil Senior Night in Charlottesville.
Moving into March, it’s going to be about closing out games. If the Cavaliers can’t do that, the 14-1 start may ultimately end in an early exit.