Assane Sene providing Virginia solid interior defense in larger role
With just less than 18 minutes remaining Tuesday night, Radford guard Gorkem Sonmez drove to the basket and had his shot swatted away by junior center Assane Sene. The Highlanders recovered the ball, but guard Evan Faulkner's shot one second later also was blocked by Sene.
Again, Radford retained the ball, but with the shot clock winding down Sonmez launched a three-pointer that was stuffed by senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan. One Highlanders possession; three Virginia blocks.
With an offense that shot 27.7 percent from the field, defensive stands such as that one were how the Cavaliers held on for a 54-44 win. Virginia tallied eight steals and seven blocks on the night, which helped the Cavaliers force 19 Radford turnovers.
Sene -- whose responsibilities and playing time have increased since senior forward Will Sherrill went down with a right leg injury Nov. 29 at Minnesota -- continues to turn in solid defensive performances. He registered six defensive rebounds, three blocks and one steal Tuesday night.
"That's the type of aggressiveness we need from Assane," Farrakhan said.
After tallying two blocks in Virginia's first six games of the season, Sene has recorded six in the past three contests since Sherrill's injury. In that time, Virginia has pulled off wins at then-No. 15 Minnesota, at Virginia Tech and against Radford.
Certainly, Sene has not been the sole spark behind the Cavaliers' three-game winning streak, but his defensive effort -- especially in Sherrill's absence -- has bolstered Virginia significantly.
Sene's offensive struggles with catching passes and getting off good shots continued against Radford. Sene missed all four of his shots from the field and both of his free throw attempts. But if he can continue to provide Virginia with a solid defensive presence in the post, that should be good enough for the Cavaliers until Sherrill returns to the court in a few weeks.
"He's helped us in our last three games, certainly on the defensive end, every time," Coach Tony Bennett said. "Showing on ball screens. If there's a breakdown, cleaning it up. Just being a good help defender. He was good (Tuesday). I didn't think the rest of us were very good with our help defense. He had a hard time offensively, but we've just got to keep working at it."