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Posted at 7:51 AM ET, 12/23/2010

Seattle 59, Virginia 53: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Virginia's offensive struggles were bound to catch up to it eventually. That night, it turned out, was Wednesday night. The Cavaliers could not bail themselves out with solid defense and, thus, they fell to Seattle, 59-53, at John Paul Jones Arena. I was in D.C. covering a college football coach's farewell tour from his alma mater, but here are some of the reports that were generated from last night's Virginia loss.

One columnist pointed out that Wednesday's loss was two weeks in the making, and I'd have to agree.

Senior forward Mike Scott returned to the floor less than a week after undergoing arthroscopic ankle surgery, but he and Coach Tony Bennett agreed he was a little rusty. Freshman forward Akil Mitchell received his first career start, but was ineffective. Junior guard Sammy Zelglinski earned his first start of the season, but -- like nearly every other Cavalier -- he found little offensive rhythm against Seattle, a squad in just its second season of Division I competition.

Bennett told reporters afterward that it wasn't for a lack of effort that Virginia faltered Wednesday nigiht. Rather, he said, it was a matter of getting beat consistently to 50-50 balls. And that's something your team can't afford when it shoots 30.2 percent from the field.

"We weren't alert and aware where the balls were," Bennett said. "They had a nose for the ball. They were on it, and our reflexes looked slow. They won the 50-50 balls all the way."

Three Up:

1) Mike Scott's return. The senior forward missed just two games after undergoing minor surgery on his ankle last Thursday. He came off the bench against Seattle to tally 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in 31 minutes. Bennett said Scott "wasn't himself defensively," and Scott acknowledged to reporters that his legs -- not neccessarily his ankle -- were not fully under him. Still, the fact that Scott was able to get back on the floor so quickly was at least one encouraging sign that came out of last night's game.

"I think that it's impressive that he could play after getting scoped in that short amount of time, and that's certainly a credit to (team trainer) Ethan (Saliba) and Doc for getting him ready," Bennett said. "We've got a lot of improvement in front of us."

2) K.T. Harrell. Virginia went back to a three-guard starting lineup against Seattle, and consequently, Harrell was removed from the starting lineup. However, that didn't keep the freshman guard from shooting 6 for 11 from the field and finishing with a team-high 16 points in 34 minutes.

3) Sammy Zeglinski. His final stat line -- nine points, four rebounds, two assists, 3 for 11 shooting (1 for 7 from three-point range) -- wasn't all that impressive. But the fact that he was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this season demonstrates Zeglinski's continued progress as he returns from preseason knee surgery. He played 22 minutes last night and recorded three steals.

Three Down:

1) Field goal percentage. The Cavaliers did not shoot well during the first half Monday night in an alarmingly narrow victory over Norfolk State, but they recovered after the intermission. They did not show the same improvement from half to half Wednesday. Virginia shot 32 percent from the field in the first half and 28.6 percent in the second half. The Cavaliers made 2 of 20 three-point attempts on the night. Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan shot 1 for 12 from the field and missed all seven of his three-point attempts.

2) Akil Mitchell. In his first career start, Mitchell registered no points, no shot attempts, one rebound, one block and two assists in 13 minutes. In other words, he didn't particularly embrace the opportunity afforded him against Seattle. Mitchell hadn't been much of an offensive spark off the bench this season, but on most nights, the Cavaliers could at least count on some production from Mitchell on the boards. Last night, that wasn't the case.

3) Defense. Where did it go? It's not as if Seattle was some sort of offensive powerhouse. The Redhawks entered the night shooting 40.7 percent from the field. They shot 50.0 percent against Virginia. Seattle owned a negative rebounding margin before Wednesday night's contest, and yet, it outrebounded the Cavaliers, 36-32. Two key factors put considerable pressure on Virginia's defense -- poor shooting and having to rely on a four-guard lineup. Against Radford, Virginia shot 27.7 percent from the field and won. Against Norfolk State, Virginia shot 35.2 percent from the field and won. Against Seattle, Virgina shot 30.2 percent from the field, and for once, the Cavaliers defense could not bail them out. It didn't help that, because of its offensive struggles -- and the lack of production from forwards Mitchell and Assane Sene (0 points, 1 shot attempt combined) -- the Cavaliers went with a four-guard lineup, which put even more pressure on them in the frontcourt on the defensive end. Seattle outscored Virginia in the paint, 30-14.

"Our strength in our defense has always been that they don't get it," Bennett said. "We call it our 'pack' because we protect the lane. That wasn't happening" Wednesday night.

By Steve Yanda  | December 23, 2010; 7:51 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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