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Posted at 6:04 AM ET, 01/20/2011

Boston College 70, Virginia 67: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Virginia shot better than its opponent from the field and from the three-point line. The Cavaliers and their depleted frontcourt grabbed the same number of rebounds as did their foes. Turnovers? The two teams that met at Conte Forum on Wednesday night combined to tally 12.

All of the above information would seem to favor Virginia in its bid to snap a two-game ACC skid and defeat Boston College. But the Cavaliers were undone down the stretch by their inability to capitalize on opportunities and by their numerous mental lapses.

Virginia did not fall at Boston College, 70-67, because it possessed inferior talent. Less experience? Sure. But not less talent.

Rather, the Cavaliers lost their third straight conference game because they (again) did not display the composure necessary to finish out a contest against a quality opponent.

Three Up:

1) Assane Sene. Who would have predicted a month ago -- when senior forward Mike Scott underwent his first ankle surgery -- that Sene would become one of the team's most valuable players? Well, that's turning out to be the case. In the five games since the calendar flipped over to 2011, Sene has averaged 6.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest. His season averages: 3.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg. Against Boston College, Sene registered 11 points, nine rebounds and five blocks. And in 32 minutes Wednesday night, Sene was charged with just one personal foul. He is active on defense and on the offensive glass. And when Sene is not on the floor, Virginia's post presence is nearly non-existent. Freshman forward Akil Mitchell is developing, but he has not yet reached the point of making a significant impact.

2) Rebounding guards. Coach Tony Bennett said Monday that due to Virginia's limited frontcourt options, the team would need its guards to "gang rebound." Of the five Cavaliers that recorded more than one rebound Wednesday night, four of them were guards. Senior Mustapha Farrakhan tallied seven. Junoir Sammy Zeglinski grabbed six. Sophomore Jontel Evans and freshman Joe Harris each recorded four. Virginia will need similar rebounding efforts on a consistent basis as it continues further into ACC play if it hopes to remain competitive on the boards.

3) K.T. Harrell's shooting. The freshman guard is shooting a team-high 46.5 percent from the field. He also is making 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts, which technically also leads the team. However, Harrell has attempted roughly half as many three-pointers (42) as has fellow freshman guard Joe Harris (81). Harris is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. Point is, Harrell has been one of Virginia's most efficient shooters. Sure, he has his off nights (see: 1 for 6 shooting performance at Duke). But more often than not, Harrell has good shot selection and knocks 'em down with striking consistency. Harrell has shot better than 42 percent from the field in 8 of Virginia's past 10 games. Against Boston College, he made 5 of 8 shots (3 of 4 from three-point range) and scored 13 points in 29 minutes.

Three Down:

1) Mental errors. There were several to choose from Wednesday night, but one that stood out was Virginia's inexplicable passiveness on a Boston College in-bound play with roughly 32 seconds remaining in the game. At that point, the Eagles led by two, so it seemed logical that Virginia would attempt to foul relatively quickly. And indeed, that was the plan, according to Bennett. The Cavaliers wanted to foul Boston College guard Danny Rubin, who is not an outstanding free throw shooter. But Rubin got rid of the ball before Virginia could foul him. The ball made its way to Eagles guard Reggie Jackson, the team's leading scorer. And this is where the mental lapse occured on Virginia's part. It was clear the Cavaliers didn't want to foul Jackson, who is a decent but not great free throw shooter. But given the circumstances, they didn't have much choice. Still, 16 seconds ran off the clock before finally Farrakhan sent Jackson to the charity stripe.

"We didn’t want it to go under 20" seconds on the game clock, Farrakhan said. "I don’t know how it did that. But it really didn’t matter. If the ball came in and we didn’t get a steal, we were supposed to foul. So I don’t know why we didn’t foul earlier. We let him dribble the ball out to 16 seconds."

2) Jontel Evans. The sophomore guard entered the game averaging just more than five shot attempts per contest. He attempted 14 shots Wednesday and made only three of them. He boldly and repeatedly drove into the lane and attempted close range shots, including five (all misses) in the game's closing minutes. But Evans was off the mark against the Eagles, and he never adjusted accordingly.

"Coach told us to attack, and that’s all I was doing," Evans said. "I thought I had it, but they all converged. I was forcing up jump shots instead of kicking it to my open teammates."

3) Interior defense. Boston College forwards Joe Trapani, Josh Southern and Corey Raji combined to score 35 points Wednesday. The trio shot a combined 12 for 19 (63.2 percent) from inside the three-point line. For stretches during the first half, the Cavaliers simply had no means of defending Boston's offensive post presence. This is the risk Virginia takes by operating out of a four-guard lineup, which it did more of Wednesday than it had at any prior point this season. That strategy might force the opponent out of its comfort zone when said opponent is on defense. But when the opponent is on the attack, the Cavaliers are going to have to find a more effective way of countering. Bennett adjusted in the second half by playing Sene and Mitchell on the floor together for stretches, which helped. But that limited the number of offensive threats Virginia could have on the floor, and the Cavaliers need all the firepower they can muster. It's not an enviable situation for Bennett to have to manage.

By Steve Yanda  | January 20, 2011; 6:04 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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Next: Virginia 72, Georgia Tech 64: Three up, three down


Great job on the blog...keep it up. At least it looks like the basketball program is headed in the right direction.

Posted by: hibachi | January 20, 2011 8:13 AM | Report abuse

This is all part and parcel of having such a young team. They'll learn from experience, and they'll have to take their lumps along the way. I've expected an up and down season since the beginning, and that's certainly how things seem to be going. But this team should show slow but consistent improvement all season, and that's also happening. The lessons learned this season should translate into a tough UVa squad next season.

And I agree, I appreciate your work on this blog, Steve. Keep it up.

Posted by: freakzilla | January 21, 2011 12:59 AM | Report abuse

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