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Posted at 1:38 PM ET, 02/21/2011

Virginia 61, Virginia Tech 54: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

My apologies, folks. This post was supposed to be published on the blog this morning, but there either was a technical glitch or I made some sort of error in setting it up for scheduled publish when I wrote it yesterday. Most likely it was the latter. Anyway, here we go ...

If they're honest with themselves, most of the people in attendance at John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday had roughly the same thought during the middle of the second half: Virginia is going to cough up this lead and lose this game.

With the way this season has gone for the Cavaliers, holding much confidence in their ability to fend off a hard-charging Virginia Tech squad -- one that needed to avoid losing this game really, really badly -- would have been a stretch.

But even after the Hokies cut what once was a 15-point lead to three with just less than eight minutes to play, Virginia held its ground. The Cavaliers didn't lose focus defensively, and they received some clutch performances from several different sources.

That version of the Cavaliers hasn't shown up often in the past few months, but it did Saturday. And so Virginia came away with a 61-54 win, its second over Virginia Tech this season.

Three Up:

1) Mustapha Farrakhan. The senior guard took a hard fall after attempting a tip-in dunk with more than 14 minutes remaining in the game. He got the wind knocked out of him and hurt his left wrist, which he'd used to try to break the fall. Farrakhan returned to the game a few minutes later and scored 10 points in the final eight minutes -- all after Virginia Tech cut Virginia's lead to three. He provided the sort of consistent late game offensive boost that the Cavaliers have lacked during ACC play.

2) Defensive rebounds. Down the stretch, it seemed as though every key defensive rebound that Virginia needed was snatched by either freshman guard Joe Harris or freshman forward Akil Mitchell. They each recorded seven rebounds on the day. Mitchell has been playing more minutes of late due to Virginia's injury-depleted frontcourt situation and has displayed impressive athleticism. But the toughness he demonstrated late in Saturday's win was on a level previously unseen this season. That would seem to bode well for his and Virginia's future, provided he can duplicate Saturday's effort on a relatively consistent basis moving forward.

3) Sammy Zeglinski. The junior guard made two three-pointers in the second half, and they both were significant. The first was shortly after the break, when Virginia was attempting to pull away from the Hokies. The second came just before the under-12 media timeout. He shot the ball from the corner while falling down and made it to push Virginia's lead to 15, its largest of the game. He recorded 10 points and five assists on the day.

Three Down:

1) Turnovers. Part of the reason Virginia Tech was able to climb back into contention in the second half was Virginia's penchant for turning the ball over. The Cavaliers tallied eight of their 14 turnovers after the intermission, and Virginia Tech tallied nine points off those eight miscues. Farrakhan tallied four on the day. Harris and sophomore guard Jontel Evans each had three.

2) Injury scare. Farrakhan -- who finished with 16 points on 5 of 12 shooting -- said afterward his wrist was sore, but he is expected to play Wednesday at Georgia Tech. But coach Tony Bennett said that at the time of Farrakhan's fall, he thought Farrakhan's wrist injury might be more serious. Virginia has endured its fair share of injuries this season (Mike Scott, Will Sherrill, Zeglinski), and losing Farrakhan for any extended amount of time would have seriously dampened an otherwise encouraging afternoon for the Cavaliers.

3) N/A.

By Steve Yanda  | February 21, 2011; 1:38 PM ET
Categories:  Men's Basketball  
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Next: Virginia 62, Georgia Tech 56: Three up, three down


A fantastic game in so many ways... swept VT, snapped a losing streak, and kept hope alive for a winning season. GT, BC and NCSU are all winnable games (probably not @UMD), which would put them at 16-14 on the year.

Think we have a shot at the NIT? Not exactly glorious, but some postseason experience would be a step in the right direction and great prep for next year.

Posted by: 2kHoo | February 21, 2011 3:53 PM | Report abuse

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