Every basketball fan knows the difference that free throw shooting can make.
On this day 30 years ago, Florida State saw that firsthand. FSU was able to breathe a sigh of relief as Virginia standout guard Bryant Stith missed two free throws in the waning seconds in a 64-63 victory for the Seminoles.
Setting the Stage
FSU was 16-6, 8-4 in ACC play and ranked No. 23 as it arrived at John Paul Jones Arena on Feb. 13, 1992. FSU was looking to even the season series after falling to the Cavaliers in overtime earlier in the season in Tallahassee.
Virginia was a bubble team, looking to sweep the season series. At 11-8 and 4-4 in conference, the Cavaliers were in position to win with just seconds on the clock.
Stith Chokes Under Pressure
Virginia took a 36-33 halftime lead and didn’t relinquish it until more than halfway through the second half. Sam Cassell’s drive gave FSU a 55-54 lead and from there, the lead changed hands three times.
FSU went ahead for good with less than a minute to go following a steal and layup from Bob Sura to make it 63-62. After Sura and Virginia’s Junior Burrough each split a pair of free throws, FSU’s Charlie Ward missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 12 seconds left.
That set the stage for Virginia to win it. On the game’s final possession, Stith pulled up from 15 feet and was able to draw the foul on Sura. Stith would be named a first-team All-ACC selection, lead the ACC in made free throws and shoot a career-best 82% from the foul line. With two seconds left and the game on the line however, the standout missed twice.
Doug Edwards was able to grab the rebound for FSU and avoid being fouled before the horn sounded. Somehow, the Seminoles survived.
Burrough led all scorers with 19 points while Stith added 16 points in the loss. Chuck Graham paced FSU with 18 points while shooting 4-for-6 from deep. Sura and Cassell tallied 13 and 10 points, respectively, in the win.
The loss may have cost Virginia a shot at the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers settled for the NIT, but would go on to win that tournament. Stith was the MVP of the NIT.
FSU would go on to finish 11-5 in ACC play and with 22 wins in a season that ended in the Sweet 16. Of those 11 conference wins, six came on the road. The final and closest of those victories came on this day three decades ago.
Mike Ferguson is the lead writer for Double Fries No Slaw. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.