Virginia 63, Oregon 48: Three up, three down
Virginia earned its fourth win this season over a high major Division I conference team Friday. Sure, Oregon is not among the best the Pac-10 has to offer, but the 63-48 victory was impressive as much for the circumstances under which the Cavaliers claimed it as much as for the win itself.
And let's be honest, that's four more victories than many observers felt Tony Bennett's squad would have earned to this point in Bennett's second campaign in Charlottesville.
Without the services of its two usual starting forwards, the Cavaliers recovered from a skittish start and turned in a solid effort that included contributions from three somewhat surprising sources. Senior forward Mike Scott was unavailable after undergoing athroscopic ankle surgery Thursday, and senior forward Will Sherrill continues to recover from the fractured fibula he suffered Nov. 29 in his right leg.
Virginia relied heavily on a four-guard lineup that kept 6-foot-6 guard Joe Harris in the post for a good portion of the night. He didn't produce the points to which Virginia followers have become accustomed, but he did grab six rebounds. More encouraging, though, was the play of freshman guard K.T. Harrell (20 points), junior guard Sammy Zeglinski (12 points, four assists) and freshman forward Akil Mitchell (seven rebounds).
Scott and Sherrill will continue to be sidelined for the near future, meaning the Cavaliers will remain open to receiving prodigious play from any of its players. But it will bode well for Virginia if those three can find some consistency in their respective roles as the team makes its way throughout the remainder of its nonconference schedule, especially if that journey is ventured mostly without two of its top performers.
1) K.T. Harrell. The freshman guard was re-inserted into the starting lineup Friday night as part of Virginia's four-guard lineup. He tallied a game-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting. He also grabbed four rebounds. Harrell has had an up and down season thus far, which may have been expected from someone in their first collegiate campaign. He has started six of 10 games, though Friday night was the first contest since the season opener against William & Mary in which Harrell attempted more than eight shots from the field. In fact, it was just the second time since then that he attempted more than six shots. When Harrell is on -- as he clearly was against Oregon -- his mid-range game is clicking. And a good indication of whether he'll be on in a given contest is whether he makes his first shot attempt of the night. Such is the plight of a freshman.
2) Sammy Zeglinski. Had the junior guard been healthy all season, his performance Friday would not have come as such a surprise. But given that Zeglinski missed the first seven games of the season while recovering from preseason knee surgery -- and that he had missed the combined six shots he'd attempted in the two games since his return -- the 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting (3 of 5 from three-point range) was a pleasant sight for Virginia fans to see. Zeglinski said that for the first time since his return to the court he felt as though he could get his legs into his shot. He also felt he was a few steps quicker Friday night, which enabled him to be more aggressive on both ends of the floor.
3) Akil Mitchell. When junior center Assane Sene left the game after picking up two early fouls, Bennett wasn't sure what kind of performance he'd get from Mitchell. The freshman forward had not logged more than 15 minutes in a single game this season prior to Friday night and was averaging just 9.0 minutes per game. Against Oregon, Mitchell displayed some of that boundless energy that Bennett loves and some of that superior athleticism that Bennett believes one day could make him a top-notch defender. Mitchell spent most of high school career playing on the wing and had never played the center position prior to coming to Virginia. But he more than held his own Friday, albeit against a size-deficient Oregon squad. Mitchell recorded a team-high seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Had he not eventually gotten into foul trouble, his impact perhaps would have been even more significant.
1) Early-game impatience. It seemed at the outset of Friday night's game that the Cavaliers were convinced they had to conform to Oregon's breakneck pace of play merely because -- without Scott -- their lineup mimicked the Ducks' in terms of overall lack of size. Virginia tallied seven turnovers in the first nine minutes of play and trailed by as many as nine points in the first half. Once the Cavaliers settled down and realized that Oregon's pressure defense wasn't nearly as daunting as it had been made out to be, they were fine.
2) Assane Sene. It's clear that effort is not the issue with Sene. The junior center makes his mistakes honestly. But for all the talk of his hands and decision-making improving this season, that sure hasn't appeared to be the case. Sene turned in quality performances against Minnesota, Virginia Tech and Radford by being a presence on the defensive end and on the boards. On Friday, Sene tallied four rebounds and a blocked shot. Oh, and he scored no points. It marked the seventh time in 10 games this season when Sene has failed to register more than two points. If he's not going to produce points, that's fine. But he has to produce something consistently besides fouls. Against Oregon, that wasn't the case.
| December 18, 2010; 7:32 AM ET
Categories: Men's Basketball
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Posted by: freakzilla | December 18, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse