Virginia 50, Norfolk State 49: Three up, three down
First off, let me apologize for not being able to provide game coverage from John Paul Jones Arena last night. A certain football coach was fired Monday in College Park, and I was helping with the Post's coverage there for most of the day and night. In any event, here are a few recaps from Virginia's 50-49 win over Norfolk State.
Last night's hero clearly was junior center Assane Sene, who tipped in the winning score with 4.8 seconds remaining in the game.
But the more critical issue is that the Cavaliers (8-3) should never have been in a position to need a hero against a MEAC squad that entered the game with a 1-7 record.
Sure, Virginia held an opponent to fewer than 50 points for the third straight game for the first time since the 1948-49 season. But the offense was putrid, a characteristic it has displayed sporadically during the first month and a half of the season. Virginia shot 29.6 percent (8 for 27) from the field in the first half and 35.2 percent from the field on the night. Only one player -- senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan -- scored in double figures.
"I hope it's one of those games where I look at the tape and I say, 'I think I overreacted after the game and it wasn't as bad on tape -- the great equalizer,'" Coach Tony Bennett told reporters afterward. "But I have a feeling I'm going to watch tape and be more frustrated."
1) Assane Sene. In addition to grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds, the junior center also scored the game-winning basket. Monday marked the second straight game senior forward Mike Scott sat out while recovering from arthroscopic ankle surgery late last week, and Sene made up for Scott's absence on the boards. He also recorded three blocks.
2) Mustapha Farrakhan. Somebody had to score points for the Cavaliers, and that person turned out to be Farrakhan against Norfolk State. The senior guard shot 7 for 14 from the field and also tallied a career-high five rebounds and two steals. During Virginia's current five-game winning streak, Farrakhan is averaging 16.2 points per game and is shooting 50 percent (25 for 50) from the field.
3) Defense. It's a good thing the Cavaliers decided to show up at least on one end of the floor. Virginia held Norfolk State to shooting 25.0 percent (7 for 28) from the field in the first half and 30.4 percent from the field on the night. Norfolk State made 2 of 16 shots (12.5 percent) from three-point range.
1) Frontcourt depth. During the absence of Scott and senior forward Will Sherrill (leg), Sene has probably played better than expected, freshman forward Akil Mitchell has grabbed a decent amount of rebounds and freshman forward Will Regan has made a couple of smart defensive plays. But overall, Virginia's deficient frontcourt depth has become an issue. The Cavaliers have started the past two games with four guards, which means freshman Joe Harris is having to spend a good chunk of time in the post. Against Oregon and Norfolk State, Harris -- who had been averaging 11.8 points per game -- registered 5 and 3 points, respectively. He has attempted 10 shots combined in the past two games. Prior to that, he had averaged 8.6 shot attempts per game. He's having to focus his energy elsewhere, and that's not doing any favors for a Virginia squad that clearly needs as much offensive firepower as it can muster.
2) Free throw shooting. How different would the storyline have been from last night's game had Sene's tip-in not fallen through the net? That basket, after all, immediately was preceded by consecutive missed free throws by freshman guard K.T. Harrell. The Cavaliers shot 5 for 10 from the free throw line Monday and are shooting 72.0 percent from the charity stripe on the season. Harrell made 3 of 6 free throws against Norfolk State. Sene and junior guard Sammy Zeglinski each missed one free throw shot.
3) Rebounding. This goes hand-in-hand with item No. 1 on this list. Still, it's worth noting. Virginia was out-rebounded, 42-36, by an opponent that entered the night owning a negative-1.2 rebounding margin. The Cavaliers were outscored in the paint, 24-14, and in second chance points, 15-9. Scott and Sherrill can't mend quickly enough.