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Posted at 7:54 PM ET, 11/23/2010

Virginia 74, Oklahoma 56: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

It was justifiable to think heading into Virginia's match-up against Oklahoma on Tuesday that the Cavaliers would be eager to put forward a much improved showing after getting pounded by 43 points the night before.

But if anyone honestly thought that Virginia would jump out to a 16-2 lead, never trail and at one point hold a 21-point lead over the Sooners, please email me some lottery numbers at yandas@washpost.com.

Tuesday's game featured the resurgence of sophomore guard Jontel Evans, a complete performance from senior forward Mike Scott and a level of composure the Cavaliers didn’t appear capable of mustering just 14 hours earlier. Virginia (3-2) won, 74-56, and will face Wichita State (2-1) Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

While the Cavaliers were coming off a thoroughly embarrassing defeat, Oklahoma was feeling pretty good about its effort in a 76-64 loss Monday to Kentucky. Sooners Coach Jeff Capel said he believes his team lost Tuesday’s game the day before it was played.

“I think we had some guys that were satisfied with yesterday, that we kept it close and we had a chance,” Capel said. “I don’t know this for a fact, but I think one of the things that happened after the game was they were probably getting a lot of texts and calls (saying), ‘Hey, you were right there. You were right there, and you had a chance. A six-point game down the stretch.’

“And then you add to that the way Virginia lost yesterday, and our guys watched that … If I’m right, and we did have the feeling yesterday, then that’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen. And we’re not a dumb basketball team, but it was a dumb decision.”

Three Up:

1) Jontel Evans. There’s no question Evans had a rough night against Washington. He played timidly Monday night, and that’s certainly not what Virginia followers have come to expect from the sophomore guard. On Tuesday, he was a completely different player. It didn’t hurt that Oklahoma’s pressure wasn’t anywhere close to the level of Washington’s pressure, but still, Evans rebounded in an admirable fashion. He finished with five points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals and – most importantly – no turnovers. This is the version of Evans the Cavaliers will need to see more often moving forward.

2) Mike Scott. As impressive as the Houdini act Scott performed in the second half of Monday’s loss to Washington was, his showing on Tuesday was much more encouraging for a Cavaliers squad with few proven interior options. Scott tallied 14 points and nine rebounds in the first half against Oklahoma, and he posted 13 points and six rebounds in the second. He was aggressive, he fought in the post for rebounds and second-chance scoring opportunities and he got to the free throw line frequently (13 for 15). As with Evans, this is the version of Scott the Cavaliers need to see on a consistent basis.

3) Ball security. Virginia went from tallying 17 turnovers in a 43-point loss Monday to registering nine turnovers in an 18-point win Tuesday. Coincidence? Not likely. The Cavaliers scored 24 points off of 17 Oklahoma turnovers. Again, the Sooners did not pressure with the same vigor as did Washington, but the fact that the Cavaliers were able to put Monday’s loss behind them so quickly is commendable.

Three Down:

1) Freshmen inconsistency. In this particular case, we’ll set our focus on first-year guard K.T. Harrell. After finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds against Washington on Monday, Harrell scored no points and grabbed no rebounds Tuesday against Oklahoma. Harrell was re-inserted into the starting lineup in place of senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan, but Harrell struggled from the outset to get engaged against the Sooners. In 23 minutes, he missed all five of his shot attempts from the field.

2) Free throw shooting. Shooting 63 percent from the charity stripe on a night in which you hold a 15-point lead for most of the game doesn’t really hurt you. But it’s safe to say Virginia won’t often hold such advantages this season, which means the free throw shooting deficiency will need to be addressed quickly. The Cavaliers made 17 of 27 free throws Tuesday. Virginia was especially shaky at the free throw line in the second half, when it made just 9 of 16 attempts (56.3 percent) from the charity stripe. Freshman guard Billy Baron and senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan shot a combined 1 for 7 from the free throw line.

3) Rebounding (aside from Scott). Only one Virginia player grabbed more than five rebounds Tuesday. That player was Scott, who pulled down 15 boards. Against a weak frontcourt such as Oklahoma’s, such a lopsided rebounding performance will suffice for the Cavaliers. But more often than not, Virginia will need a stronger effort on the boards from its other frontcourt players, as well as some of its taller guards.

By Steve Yanda  | November 23, 2010; 7:54 PM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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