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Posted at 6:05 AM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Virginia 49, Clemson 47: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said following the Cavaliers' 49-47 win Wednesday night that he had elected to start junior guard Sammy Zeglinski over freshman guard K.T. Harrell because he anticipated Clemson using pressure defense and thought Zeglinski's presence would provide his team another quality ball-handler on the court.

Given the way things started and the way they ended, that decision may have won the game for Virginia. And it had nothing to do with Zeglinski's ball-handling.

Zeglinski, in his second start of the season, scored 12 points -- on four made three-point shots -- in the contest's first seven minutes, propelling the Cavaliers to a 14-1 lead. Virginia would finish the half up, 29-13. And as you could tell from the final score, the Cavaliers ended up winning by two.

Now, obviously, many factors contributed to Virginia's victory. Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan was clutch throughout the night and particularly in the closing minutes, and the team's half-court defense showed marked improvement, to name a few.

But one could argue that had the Cavaliers not gotten off to such a hot start -- had they not built themselves such a thick cushion early on -- they would not have been offensively sufficient enough in the second half to earn a victory.

Zeglinski, by the way, did not score again the rest of the night. Go figure.

Three Up:

1) Farrakhan. In addition to tallying a game-high 21 points, the senior guard also recorded a team-high six rebounds and made all six of his free throws, four of which came in the final 24 seconds. He was Virginia's lone consistent offensive threat Wednesday. In the final two seconds, he injured his knee and was still in pain when speaking with reporters after the game. Farrakhan, Virginia's leading scorer on the season, said he would seek treatment in the coming days and "see how it feels in Miami." The Cavaliers play at Miami on Saturday.

2) Half-court defense. Clemson shot 33.3 percent from the field and made 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) three-point attempts against Virginia. The Tigers only were able to generate offensive momentum in transition off of the Virginia mistakes caused by Clemson's pressure defense. Following a string of games in which the Cavaliers had faltered late on defense, Virginia managed to sustain its defensive form throughout the night despite its offensive struggles. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 15 times, but allowed just 10 points off those turnovers. That's not great, but it's at least a sign of improvement.

3) Zeglinski. As was mentioned earlier, Zeglinski was on fire to start the game. And while his shooting touch quickly cooled off, he continued to make an impact on the game in other areas. He pulled down five rebounds, which was helpful on a night when junior center Assane Sene was almost a non-factor on the boards. Zeglinski also tallied a game-high three steals. Ironically, Zeglinski -- who Bennett inserted into the starting lineup because of his ball-handling ability -- also registered a game-high four turnovers.

Three Down:

1) Handling pressure defense. Virginia followers may remember how much Virginia struggled against Maryland's press defense last week. Well, the Cavaliers didn't fare much better against Clemson. The Tigers managed to get back into contention Wednesday in large part because they began pressing Virginia into making numerous ball-handling mistakes. And that led to ...

2) Poor transition defense. Stats can be misleading. For instance, Clemson tallied just five fast break points Wednesday night. But the Tigers killed Virginia with their transition offense. Basically, whenever the Cavaliers didn't have time to set their defense, whenever they were rushing to find their man or their spot or the ball, breakdowns occured and Clemson often scored a bucket. And if the Tigers missed their first shot ...

3) Second-half rebounding. Perhaps it was a given that the supreme frontcourt athleticism Clemson possesses eventually would catch up to Virginia, which held a 20-11 rebounding advantage entering halftime. But getting outrebounded, 28-11, in the second half? That seems a bit extreme. The Tigers crushed Virginia on the boards after the break, particularly on the offensive end. Clemson recorded 14 offensive rebounds and 12 second chance points in the second half.

By Steve Yanda  | February 3, 2011; 6:05 AM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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Comments

A nailbiter last night, and definitely not pretty down the stretch, but I'll take it. Hopefully holding on to win that one will inspire some more confidence in some of the younger guys. There's still a lot to work on, but it will come.

Posted by: freakzilla | February 3, 2011 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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