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College basketball

'Noles put away struggling Cavs

Tim Pickett's career highs help jump-start FSU to a 73-59 victory.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 2, 2003


TALLAHASSEE -- Florida State guard Tim Pickett looked like he would have a performance he would just as soon forget in the team's home finale Saturday.

Instead, he, his teammates, the announced crowd of 5,667 at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center and, much to its chagrin, Virginia might long remember it.

Pickett matched his career highs with 32 points -- including his team's last 18 of the first half -- and 11 rebounds as the Atlantic Coast Conference cellar-dwelling Seminoles beat the reeling Cavaliers 73-59. His six 3-pointers also tied Sam Cassell for the school record in an ACC game.

"It seems as though in the ACC, there always seems to be one guy on every team we've played who has always stepped up when the game was on the line," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I'm just glad that we had somebody tonight on our team who stepped up and gave us that ACC push."

The Seminoles (13-13, 4-11), who snapped a three-game skid, have not won as many games overall since they went 13-17 in the 1998-99 season, former coach Steve Robinson's second.

Although it closes the regular season Thursday at Duke, FSU still could get an NIT bid. Teams must finish with at least a .500 record to be considered.

Meanwhile, Virginia (15-13, 5-9) continued its freefall with its sixth straight loss, its worst streak since losing eight during the 1997-98 season.

"We don't have a lack of talent, we have a lack of character," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said.

Senior tri-captain Travis Watson, an all-ACC candidate, sophomore Elton Brown, a starter the past five games, and sophomore Jermaine Harper were late for a team function Saturday. None played significant minutes in the first half.

"They're good people, but they're making some bad decisions," Gillen said. "We don't have a lot of rules: be on time, go to class, do the right thing ... It'd be nice to have the veterans doing that."

Yet, the Cavaliers parlayed junior guard Todd Billet's 3-for-4 3-point shootig and a 9-1 edge in offensive rebounds to take a 21-13 lead with 12:17 left in the first half.

"Even though we had Billet in our scouting report, I'm not sure our guys understood he was a guy who could shoot the ball," Hamilton said.

Pickett was 1-for-7 at that point.

After junior forward Michael Joiner, whose 15 points marked his best output since he had 16 in a win against Virginia Tech on Jan.4, hit a 3-pointer, Pickett led a charge.

"I just told myself, after I missed some easy ones, just be patient," Pickett said. "I'm a good shooter. After I started off rough, I started taking my time and following through on my shots."

He made his next six, including three 3-pointers, for FSU's final 18 points of the half, cutting Virginia's lead to 37-34.

"We played zone, we played man, he just hit some great shots," Gillen said. "We just couldn't stop him."

In the second half, the Cavaliers did a better job, but Pickett's enthusiasm and effort spread to his teammates, especially Joiner. He made back-to-back 3s to cap a 9-0 run at the start of the second half as the Seminoles took control.

"Tim is my kind of guy," Hamilton said. "He plays with full heart every time he puts his tennis shoes on. He doesn't always make the right decision, but he always come to play. And he's getting better in all parts of the game."

Virginia, perhaps showing signs of fatigue after three road games in a week, could not keep pace and fell behind by as many as 18 before FSU emptied its bench.

"We wanted to get this win to still keep our chances for the postseason alive," Joiner said. "We were hungrier. I believe our passion was a lot greater than theirs."

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