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Posted at 10:29 PM ET, 12/ 7/2010

Virginia 54, Radford 44: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

The radio commentator who asked the first question of Virginia Coach Tony Bennett's postgame press conference following the Cavaliers' 54-44 win Tuesday night over Radford could not keep a straight face as the query exited his mouth: Have you seen anything like that in your coaching career thus far?

It was a fair question -- and one worth a disbelieving chuckle or two -- considering the winning team shot 27.7 percent from the field. During one second-half stretch, Virginia went 13 minutes, six seconds without making a shot away from the free throw line.

"We'll have to repaint the rims, I know, after that game," Bennett said.

Indeed.

The Cavaliers are 6-3 through the first nine games of Bennett's second season as Virginia's head coach, a somewhat impressive mark considering the road-heavy schedule the team has played thus far. Virginia's patience and defensive understanding have improved dramatically in the past three weeks, and the Cavaliers should be commended for such progress.

But then you watch them play on the other end of the court and wonder. You wonder what will happen when the opponent isn't a Big South squad riding a five-game losing streak and employing a 2-3 zone. You wonder what will happen during ACC play on nights when senior forward Mike Scott shoots 1 for 7 from the field, as he did Tuesday.

You wonder whether the team's defense will deteriorate at a quicker pace the next time the offense proves so inept.

"We said, 'Okay, we're struggling, but don't let it slide on the other end,'" Bennett said. "And that's what bothered me. A couple of the loose decisions ... Just being nonchallant with the ball, and then not helping each other on the defensive end. That, to me, should not slide. And that's what bothered me the most."

Three Up:

1) K.T. Harrell. The freshman guard has displayed a more aggressive mind-set coming off the bench in the past two games than he had at any point previously this season. Harrell shot 5 for 6 from the field Tuesday, and without his offensive efforts the Cavaliers would have made 19.5 percent of its attempts. Harrell made all three of his attempts from three-point range and finished with 13 points.

2) Assane Sene. The junior center certainly is limited offensively. But in place of the injured Will Sherrill, Sene has played admirably on the defensive end, specifically on the glass. Sene did not score against Radford, but he did tally seven rebounds, three blocks and a steal. Assuming Virginia does not shoot as horridly as it did tonight on many other occassions this season, the Cavaliers should be able to get by with minimal offensive production from Sene until Sherrill returns to the court.

3) Team defense for the first 32 or so minutes. There was nearly a 12-minute stretch that spanned both halves in which Radford did not make a shot from the field. Mind you, the Highlanders entered the night shooting 36.5 percent from the field, so perhaps their offensive struggles were not neccessarily all due to Virginia's defensive vigor. Still, the Cavaliers did force eight steals and did block seven shots. Radford never cut Virginia's lead to fewer than 10 points in the second half and only scored 44 points on the night.

Three Down:

1) Second-half shooting drought. The Cavaliers' performance on offense in the first half wasn't great, but it wasn't awful, either. Virginia shot 39.1 percent from the field and made 6 of 11 shots from three-point range before the break. Then the second half began and the bricks started flying. The Cavaliers missed 15 of their first 16 shots after the intermission. Only four Virginia players scored field goals on the night, and Scott's lone basket came on an unintentional tip-in off a missed Mustapha Farrakhan lay-up with 18 seconds left to play.

2) Sloppy ball-handling. Scott tallied six turnovers to lead the Cavaliers on Tuesday, but he certainly was not the only one who was unsure with his passing and dribbling. Sophomore guard Jontel Evans recorded three turnovers. As a team, Virginia posted eight assists and 13 turnovers on the night.

3) Ability to get the ball inside. Virginia struggled -- especially in the first half -- to find and make shots from mid- to close-range against Radford's 2-3 zone defense. It took the Cavaliers nearly the first 10 minutes of the game to make a shot from within the three-point line. When they did attack the soft spot in the zone -- the area around the free throw line -- they missed. A lot. Radford will not be the last team this season to throw such a zone look at Virginia. It's an issue that will need to be addressed in the coming weeks before ACC play resumes.

By Steve Yanda  | December 7, 2010; 10:29 PM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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