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Posted at 9:22 AM ET, 11/30/2010

Solid efforts in practice preceded Mustapha Farrakhan's big night

By Steve Yanda

Senior forward Mustapha Farrakhan was removed from the starting lineup after the fourth game of the season -- Virginia's 43-point loss to Washington in the first game of the Maui Invitational during which Farrakhan shot 1 for 8 from the field and missed all four of his three-point attempts.

He played well off the bench the following game -- an 18-point win over Oklahoma -- but then turned in one of the worst performances of his career. In a 12-point loss to Wichita State, Farrakhan missed the only shot he took and tallied three turnovers and four personal fouls in 13 minutes of play.

Upon returning from Maui, Farrakhan's effort in practice took a turn for the better, and Coach Tony Bennett said he reminded Farrakhan of that prior to Monday night's game at No. 15 Minnesota.

"I told Mu right before the game that the last two practices was the best I’ve seen," Bennett said following Virginia's 87-79 win. "He threw himself into the team. I saw him more vocal in last two practices, more team-oriented."

Farrakhan shot 4 for 4 from three-point range in the first half and ended up shooting 8 for 14 from the field on the night en route to a career-high 23 points. His shooting was a main reason why the Cavaliers trailed by only 10 points at halftime.

"When you shoot that well, it helps, but he let the game come," Bennett said. "When Mu does that, he’s a very effective player."

Farrakhan also registered five rebounds, four assists and no turnovers. And Bennett credited Farrakhan with helping to force Minnesota sharp shooter Blake Hoffarber to take more difficult shots as the game progressed.

The senior guard said he was "not focusing on one aspect of the game. Just play out there. Because when I focus on one aspect of the game, defense or offense, it kind of jams me up instead of just letting it flow."

By Steve Yanda  | November 30, 2010; 9:22 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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