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Posted at 11:49 PM ET, 11/29/2010

Virginia 87, No. 15 Minnesota 79: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

There were several times during the first half of Virginia's ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-up Monday night at No. 15 Minnesota when it appeared the Golden Gophers were on the verge of inflicting a Washington-esque blowout on the Cavaliers. Virginia was making silly unforced turnovers, was playing porous perimeter defense and was even more lackadaisical in transition defense.

And yet, when halftime rolled around, Virginia trailed by just 10 points. This was due in large part to the fact that senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan and freshman guard Joe Harris combined to shoot 6 for 6 from three-point range in the first half. There was a lot going wrong for Tony Bennett's crew at that point, but Farrakhan and Harris were going very, very right.

Eventually, after Bennett called a timeout early in the second half and issued an ultimatum to his players that they either would get back quickly on transition defense or they would be pulled from the game, the Cavaliers shored up many of their deficiencies. The turnovers were not as frequently tallied, nor were the Minnesota fast break baskets. And it helped that Harris and Farrakhan retained their hot shooting touch throughout the night.

In the second half, Virginia trailed by as many as 13 and led by as many as 14. In the end, that translated to an 87-79 victory, the program's first on the road over a ranked opponent since 2007.

Three Up:

1) Mustapha Farrakhan. The senior guard had struggled mightily of late. During Virginia's two losses at the Maui Invitational, Farrakhan shot 1 for 9 from the field. He did not make a single three-pointer during the three-game tournament. On Monday night, back in his native Midwest, Farrakhan shot 8 for 14 from the field and 4 for 5 from three-point range. He finished with a career-high 23 points in 34 minutes.

2) Joe Harris. As Coach Tony Bennett said afterward, Harris "did some things that were very un-freshman-like" Monday night. Harris shot 8 for 12 from the field, including 4 for 6 from beyond the arc, and finished with a game-high 24 points. Harris is the only member of Virginia's seven-member freshman class that has played consistently well thus far this season. He is averaging 11.7 points per game, which ranks second on the team.

3) Rebounding. The fact that Virginia owned a 36-31 edge on the boards over Minnesota is remarkable considering the significant size advantage the Golden Gophers possessed. Senior forward Mike Scott tallied 12 rebounds, and he got some help from junior center Assane Sene, who grabbed a season-high six rebounds. Virginia drew even with Minnesota in second chance points, 12-12.

Three Down:

1) Transition defense. Numerous times during the first half and at the outset of the second half, Virginia made a three-point basket only to immediately allow Minnesota to answer with a three-pointer of its own. With more than 17 minutes to play, Bennett called a timeout and told his players that anyone who didn't get back quickly on transition defense from that point forward would be pulled from the game. The transition defense was better the rest of the game, but it remains a problematic issue for the Cavaliers. Minnesota outscored Virginia in fast break points, 19-4.

2) Unforced turnovers. In previous games, Virginia had tallied its fair share of turnovers, but they mostly were the result of not being able to handle an opponent's defensive pressure. While that doesn't make them any more acceptable, at least the other team was playing a role in the process. During the first half Monday night, Virginia recorded eight turnovers, and many of them were self-inflicted. The Cavaliers were making sloppy passes and, at times, simply failed to catch the ball when it was thrown to them. They did respond, however, and registered just three turnovers after the intermission.

3) Injury. Senior forward Will Sherrill suffered a right leg injury that forced him to leave the game midway through the second half. The extent of the injury is unknown at this point, but on a team as inexperienced as the Cavaliers, losing a heady senior captain such as Sherrill for any extended period of time would be less than ideal. Prior to leaving the game Monday, Sherrill had tallied career highs in assists (three) and steals (three).

By Steve Yanda  | November 29, 2010; 11:49 PM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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