Virginia 69, N.C. State 58: Three up, three down
Following Virginia's 69-58 win Tuesday night over N.C. State on Senior Night, junior guard Sammy Zeglinski acknowledged there are times he wonders what could have been had senior forward Will Sherrill not had to miss a total of eight games this season due to a broken right leg.
Certainly, the loss of senior forward Mike Scott for the season (ankle) was more damaging to the Cavaliers' prospects. But Sherrill's impact on what Virginia could do on both ends of the court Tuesday was significant, enough to make one think the Cavaliers might have been in better position to win a few more games this season had Sherrill been fully healthy throughout the past three months.
Sherrill logged 37 minutes against N.C. State and finished with 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from three-point range and eight rebounds. His presence allowed freshman guard Joe Harris to play a more organic role on the wing, and Harris responded by tallying a game-high 19 points.
But Sherrill affected the game in other ways, as well. He sets screens, he defends well and he communicates clearly and without hesitation.
"Will makes us a better team when he’s healthy," coach Tony Bennett said. "Does he go 4 for 5 from three all the time? No. But he allows Joe to play a little more of a natural spot on the perimeter, and his ability to stretch the defense opens up the lane."
1) Seniors. While his impact on the game was not as overt as Sherrill's, senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan performed adequately on Senior Night as well. He shot 5 for 12 from the field and finished with 15 points. His most crucial shot came with just more than three minutes remaining in the game with Virginia clinging to a six-point lead. Farrakhan made a three-pointer from the top of the key to extend the Cavaliers' lead to nine. Affording Virginia some extra cushion is never a bad idea with this squad. Farrakhan got to perform for the first time in his college career with his grandfather, Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, in the crowd.
2) Harris. As was previously mentioned, the freshman guard tallied 19 points. He shot 4 for 7 from three-point range and made all seven of his free throw attempts. He also recorded five rebounds, three assists and two steals. He played as if a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and in a way it had. Harris didn't have to focus on grabbing rebounds or on banging around in the post against bigger opponents. He got to defend wing players and come off screens.
3) Free throws. Virginia entered the game shooting 68.6 percent from the free throw line on the season. That, as you might have guessed, is not very good. But Tuesday night, the Cavaliers made 17 of 20 free throws (85 percent). Bennett said he could think of two games off the top of his head that Virginia likely would have won had the Cavaliers shot as well from the charity stripe those nights. Tuesday marked just the seventh game this season in which Virginia shot higher than 75 percent from the free throw line on more than 10 attempts. It was the first time the Cavaliers had done so since defeating Louisiana State, 64-50, on Jan. 2.
1) Transition defense. Virginia scored the game's first 16 points. Virginia led, 18-17, with nine minutes remaining in the first half. As Bennett said, "We can lose a lead quicker than most teams." And part of the reason for that is the Cavaliers still struggle to get back in transition defense. N.C. State exploited that in the first half, but Virginia regained momentum early in the second half and held it the rest of the night.
2) Sammy Zeglinski's shooting. In Zeglinski's past two games he has shot a combined 4 for 21 (19 percent) from the field. On Tuesday, he shot 3 for 11 from the field, including 1 for 5 from three-point range, but made 3 for 4 free throws and finished with 10 points. To be fair, Zeglinski did impact the game in other ways (five assists, four rebounds and a steal). But for this Virginia squad to operate at its optimal level, the Cavaliers need Farrakhan, Harris and Zeglinski to all be shooting well, and that wasn't the case against N.C. State.
| March 2, 2011; 6:02 AM ET
Categories: Men's Basketball
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