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Men's Basketball: Offense struggles in loss

If Friday's 85-72 season-opening win over Longwood was Virginia's offense at its best, then Monday's 66-49 loss to South Florida could be the Cavaliers' offense at its worst.

Whether it's Dave Leitao or Tony Bennett, one constant remained between last season and this season: If Sylven Landesberg struggles to score, it will be a bad offensive night for Virginia. Landesberg scored 14 points on 5 of 14 from the field.

Don't fall in the trap of believing Monday's result was the byproduct of a slow-it-down Bennett system. Instead, it was simply a team that struggled to make shots. With Mike Scott in foul trouble, Virginia lost its only interior threat. That meant the guards needed to take over, and the team's outside shooting remains an issue.

The Cavaliers were 17 of 52 from the field and 2 of 12 from three-point range. Jeff Jones, who was supposed to emerge as a secondary option, was 1 of 7 from beyond the arc. In two games, Jones is 1 of 9.

"It's hard to be competitive if you're not making some shots," Bennett told reporters after the game.

The second half was another sore area for Virginia for the second consecutive game. Watching the game on television, I actually thought the Cavaliers played well defensively in the first half. The Bulls finished the half with four points to enter the break with a 31-27 lead, but the Cavaliers were forcing difficult shots.

Then, South Florida started the second half with a 9-0 run and the game just became ugly.

What can one learn from the loss? Here are three conclusions:

- Bennett is accurate when he warns this will be a long season. Virginia has some talent in the back court, but they don't show up every night. Jones must prove he can become a secondary scorer. Mustapha Farrakhan struggled after tying a career high in points on Friday. And Sammy Zeglinski remains wildly inconsistent.

- This team needs Assane Sene back in the lineup. Sene provides the Cavaliers with a defensive presence in the paint. Simply said, he's their only one. Sene will miss one more game because of suspension, but returns Saturday against Oral Roberts.

- Tristan Spurlock must become a factor if Virginia can make something out of this season. Spurlock played only nine minutes on Monday after playing only three on Friday. He was supposed to add scoring to the wing, but he's been irrelevant through the first two games.

By Zach Berman  |  November 17, 2009; 10:28 AM ET
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It was a long second half indeed. The most glaring deficiency was of course our lack of size in the front court. USF has 3 legit big men (and in my opinion, #31 Famous is better than Gilchrist) so I knew it would be a struggle. Our starting lineup was small, and at times I saw Spurlock or Sylven guarding a USF 4. We need Sene and we need Jamil Tucker.

Posted by: uvabloggerdotcom | November 17, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

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