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Posted at 10:44 PM ET, 12/ 5/2010

Virginia 57, Virginia Tech 54: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Virginia has not played a home game since Nov. 15. In the weeks since then, the Cavaliers have been on a six-game road trip that began with a 21-point loss and a 43-point loss in consecutive contests.

But after earning an upset win Monday at No. 15 Minnesota, Virginia had an opportunity Sunday to go .500 on its extended road stretch. All the Cavaliers had to do was defeat a Virginia Tech squad that was picked to finish second in the ACC this season.

Before the game, Coach Tony Bennett challenged his players to -- if nothing else -- show him that they had learned since their road trip began. And that's exactly what they did. Virginia was sound defensively for most of the game, and -- most importantly -- when the Hokies inevitably went on a run late in the second half, the Cavaliers did not wilt under the pressure.

Unlike when they got out to an early lead before falling by 12 to Wichita State on Nov. 24, the Cavaliers held steady Sunday night despite undergoing a serious offensive droubt in the second half. For its poise, Virginia was rewarded with a 57-54 that got the Cavaliers off to a 1-0 start in ACC play.

"We were maybe an A-minus in this game," Bennett said. "I think we can improve, but we didn’t let them run a lot, and then guys made big plays … We were leaking oil down the stretch, but we had enough to come up with the big stop and make some big plays."

Three Up:

1) Mike Scott. In the words of senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan, Scott -- who finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds -- "played like a beast" against Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers can thank Scott for the fact that they out-rebounded the Hokies, 30-28. Only one Virginia player aside from Scott tallied more than three rebounds. Farrakhan had five. More than that, though, Scott isn't trying to go beyond what the team needs him to do. He's not trying to take over the game offensively. He's making the best out of each possession, and that is translating into a lot of production for the senior forward.

2) Farrakhan. After taking 14 shots and scoring 23 points Monday at Minnesota, Farrakhan turned in another solid outing in Sunday's win at Virginia Tech. And this time he took only four shots and scored nine points. It wasn't Farrakhan's point production that lifted Virginia against the Hokies. It was his ability to impact the game in a variety of ways. He grabbed five rebounds, he tallied five assists, he recorded no turnovers, he registered a pair of blocks and steals. And he took turns defending Virginia Tech guard Malcolm Delaney. Sure, Delaney ended up with a game-high 26 points on 10 for 15 shooting. But his damage could have been worse. Much worse.

3) Assane Sene. After picking up two quick fouls, Sene logged just three minutes in the first half. But after the intermission, Sene played 15 effective minutes. Sene proved so useful to the Cavaliers on the defensive end that Bennett elected to keep Sene on the floor during stretches when his team really could have used an offensive boost. Interestingly enough, Sene scored a couple of baskets during periods in which seeminly every other Virginia player could not. He tallied two blocks and a steal, and his interior defense in the second half often prevented the Cavaliers from having to draw another defender in to double-team in the post. Much like Farrakhan, Sene turned in his second straight quality performance, and that has to be a very encouraging sign for Bennett.

Three Down:

1) Second-half offensive woes. After shooting 55.6 percent from the field in the first half, Virginia shot 36.4 percent from the field after the break. Virginia Tech deserves a lot of credit for that turnaround. The Hokies played downright awful defense in the first half, but really made a more concerted effort to lock in on Virginia's ball-handlers in the second half. Dorenzo Hudson proved particularly flustering -- especially to freshman guard K.T. Harrell -- after halftime. After freshman guard Joe Harris made a lay-up with 8 minutes, 48 seconds to play, the Cavaliers made just two more shots from the field the rest of the game. And those two made baskets came courtesy of Assane Sene.

2) Frontcourt reserves. With senior forward Will Sherrill out for the near future, the Cavaliers will have to rely more on freshmen forwards Akil Mitchell and Will Regan. On Sunday, that reality proved a bit worrisome. Mitchell played 14 minutes and recorded two points, two personal fouls, two turnovers and one rebound. Regan logged eight minutes and missed both the shots he took. Regan did make a heady play during the first half. He collected a loose ball with time running out in the shot clock and had the presence of mind to get off a three-pointer before time expired.

3) Breaking down the 1-3-1 zone defense. In fairness to Virginia, Sunday might have been the first time all season the Cavaliers have faced a 1-3-1 zone. Virginia Tech implemented it late in the first half to considerable success. The Hokies used it at different points throughout the second half, as well, mixing it in with its man-to-man defense. Virginia struggled to get past it and was forced to call several timeouts when pinned against Virginia Tech's trap. The Cavaliers likely will fare better the next time they see it, but until then, it's something to work on.

By Steve Yanda  | December 5, 2010; 10:44 PM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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