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Stanford 81, Virginia 60: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

At this early stage, Virginia's confidence appears to be a very fragile thing. And when things fall apart in the form of defensive breakdowns, offensive miscues, ect., overall disintegration from an execution standpoint seems to take place in a hurry. Perhaps this is one of the byproducts of fielding a relatively young squad.

Five Virginia freshmen played in their first collegiate road game Thursday night at Stanford. They also competed against their first quality opponent at this level. It showed. There were turnovers and rushed shots and miscommunication and sometimes no communication. But it would be unfair to place blame for the Cavaliers' 81-60 loss all on the collective shoulders of Virginia's freshman class. This defeat was a group effort, to be sure.

Senior forward Mike Scott, senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan, sophomore guard Jontel Evans and freshman guard Joe Harris each tallied three turnovers. The team recorded 18 turnovers on the night. Virginia was out-rebounded 33-25 overall and 11-5 on the offensive glass. And poor transition defense across the board allowed Stanford to operate at its own pace and keep the Cavaliers offguard during most possessions.

"I think we just was too excited in this atmosphere playing against a good team," Evans said. "I think if we would have just settled down, we would have been alright. Coach always talks about value the ball, and I think we didn’t do that in the first half or the second half."

Three Up:

1) First-half shooting. The Cavaliers were able to overcome many of their flaws in the first half by shooting 60 percent from the field and 55.6 percent from three-point range. They trailed by three points at halftime.

2) Will Sherrill. Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said his team remains in search of a steadying hand in the backcourt. Sherrill doesn't play guard, but there is no steadier player on the Cavaliers roster than this 6-foot-9 senior. With Assane Sene continuing to struggle and Virginia's frontcourt options limited, one would think it is only a matter of time before Sherrill is playing more than the 15 minutes he logged Thursday night. He shot 3 for 4 from the field, made both of his three-point attempts and finished with eight points, five assists and two turnovers. Is he an ideal option for significant playing time? Probably not. But is he one of the best frontcourt options available to Bennett at this point? It appears so.

3) Free-throw shooting. Virginia made all 11 of its attempts from the charity stripe. When compared to Stanford's effort from the free-throw line Thursday night -- the Cardinal made 1 of 8 attempts in the first half and 6 of 14 on the night -- the Cavaliers' consistency in that regard is encouraging.

Three Down:

1) Transition defense. To say that there was none in the second half would be an overstatement. But the Cavaliers sure weren't very effective in executing it after halftime. Players said afterward there was a rash of miscommunication. Stanford's shooting percentage actually went down in the second half -- from 57.7 percent to 51.6 percent -- but the number of shots that Virginia contested seemed to go down, as well.

2) Turnovers. In the first half alone, Virginia's offensive efforts were hampered by one carrying call, one charge, two shot clock violations and five -- five! -- traveling calls. The Cavaliers made 12 of 20 shots from the field before halftime, and who knows how many more points they could have scored had they not been so intent on shooting themselves in the foot. Sure, Stanford's defensive deserves some credit, specifically on forcing the two shot clock violations, but most of Virginia's turnovers were self-inflicted.

3) Rebounding. Sophomore center Assane Sene recorded two rebounds Thursday night. In three games this season he has grabbed a total of four rebounds in 38 minutes. By comparison, freshman forward Akil Mitchell has registered nine rebounds in 25 minutes this season. Virginia was out-worked on the glass -- specifically at the offensive end -- against Stanford. The Cavaliers will face far more imposing frontcourts in the coming weeks and months than they did Thursday night, and if five offensive rebounds is all they can muster on a nightly basis, it's going to be a long season.

By Steve Yanda  | November 19, 2010; 2:29 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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Next: Poll: How will Virginia fare at Boston College?

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