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Posted at 8:28 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Miami 70, Virginia 68: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

No ACC has shot worse from the free throw line in league play than Virginia. And really, it hasn't even been close. Florida State, which ranks No. 11 in that category in the conference, is shooting 64.7 percent from the charity stripe against ACC opponents.

Virginia, at 60.7 percent, is shooting a full four percentage points lower.

To be fair, only two other ACC squads have attempted fewer free throws than the Cavaliers in ACC play. So perhaps one could argue that, if given the same number of free throws as Florida State, Virginia would shoot roughly the same percentage. But that would mean the Cavaliers would have to make 21 of their next 23 free throws.

Here's guessing that won't happen.

Virginia fell at Miami, 70-68, in overtime on Saturday because the Cavaliers couldn't make enough free throws down the stretch to put away the Hurricanes when given the opportunities. It didn't help Virginia's cause that Miami made 7 of 13 three-pointers (53.8 percent) after the first half.

But the ongoing theme here is that the Cavaliers keep finding ways to inhibit their own success. On Saturday, it was an inability to hit free throws that doomed Virginia. In previous losses it had been anything from insufficient defense in the closing minutes to a paucity of made baskets to too many silly turnovers and an inability to recover from said silly turnovers.

The striking question that arose out of Saturday's defeat was not how the Cavaliers could miss so many free throws (they shot 9 for 22 from the charity stripe against Miami), but how a team, even one as young and relatively inexperienced as Virginia, could continue to suffer such defeats* 23 games into the season.

*To be clear, by "such defeats" I mean losses in which the Cavaliers built leads by addressing and correcting previous flaws only to fumble away those leads in the closing minutes of a game due to the arrival of different fatal mistakes.

Three Up:

1) Sammy Zeglinski. The junior guard isn't an overwhelming presence in most games, but he does a little bit of everything to help guide Virginia along. Against Miami, Zeglinski finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks. He shot 3 for 6 from three-point range. Granted, Zeglinski was called for a foul on Rion Brown from beyond the three-point arc with 13.7 seconds left in regulation, and Brown's succeeding three made free throws tied the game to send it into overtime. But Zeglinski claimed afterward that no part of his body touched Brown, and since the game wasn't broadcast on TV, there's no way for us to know definitively whether his account is correct or not. Bennett said he'd have to see the play on film before he could comment on it, so we'll see what he has to say on today's ACC coaches' teleconference.

2) Jontel Evans. Put aside the sophomore guard's final stat line -- nine points, five rebounds, five assists, one turnover. As solid as that was, it was Evans's defense that left an impression. With Miami ahead by four and less than two minutes remaining in overtime, Evans knocked the ball loose from one Miami ball-handler, went and stole the ball from the Miami player who collected the loose ball and then jetted downcourt for a transition lay-up. Down the stretch, Evans's focus and defense improved, and that hasn't always been the case for him this season.

3) Reaction to turnovers. Virginia tallied just five turnovers in the second half and overtime period combined. Better yet, the Cavaliers allowed Miami to score only three points off their 11 turnovers all game. Meantime, Virginia forced Miami to commit 13 turnovers and scored 13 points off of those miscues.

Three Down:

1) Free throws. We don't need to go much further into this than we already have. Virginia shot 40.9 percent (9 for 22) from the free throw line Saturday, including 6 for 12 in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime combined. When you lose by two points in overtime, such free throw shooting woes are magnified. Yes, Miami shot well from beyond the arc, but that was more a reflection of the Hurricanes' hot shooting touch than it was poor defense by the Cavaliers. On many instances, Miami's three-point attempts were well contested and still fell through the net.

2) See point No. 1.

3) See point No. 2.

By Steve Yanda  | February 7, 2011; 8:28 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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Next: Cautiously, Tony Bennett disagrees with late foul called on Sammy Zeglinski


This game was brutal. Third one this season they had in the bag and fumbled away (BC and Wake were the other two). Just killer. If they win those three, they're 15-8, 6-3 in the ACC, and looking like a serious contender for an NCAA bid. But now they're barely .500 with a tough final stretch. Steve, what's your outlook for the rest of the season? @GT, BC and NCST look winnable, Duke and @MD are likely losses, and VT and @FSU are up in the air. Think they can win enough to make the NIT?

Posted by: 2kHoo | February 7, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

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