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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 03/ 7/2011

Virginia 74, Maryland 60: Three up, three down

By Steve Yanda

Okay, let’s be honest — before the season began, how many of you honestly thought this Virginia team would win seven conference games and earn the No. 8 seed in the ACC tournament? And for all those who raised their hands, how many of you thought those same two marks were attainable on Jan. 10 when it was announced senior forward Mike Scott would miss the remainder of the season due to ankle surgery?

I’m guessing there aren’t too many hands left in the air right now.

Virginia’s regular season concluded Saturday with a 74-60 win at Maryland, and after the rest of the ACC slate wrapped up Sunday it was determined that the Cavaliers had attained the No. 8 seed in the conference tournament and would play ninth-seeded Miami at noon on Thursday. The winner of that game will face top-seeded North Carolina at noon on Friday.

Regardless of how the Cavaliers fare this week in Greensboro, most observers would have to acknowledge that this season’s Virginia squad — despite its various and abundant shortcomings — overachieved. Several examples of the Cavaliers’ maturation were on display Saturday in College Park.

Three up:

1) Rebounding. In a battle of the boards pitting Assane Sene and Will Sherrill against Jordan Williams — the ACC’s leading rebounder — and Dino Gregory, most league followers would bet on Williams and Gregory roughly 9.5 times* out of 10. On Saturday, those followers would have lost money. In fact, Saturday marked the second time in as many games this season when Virginia outrebounded Maryland. I’m not sure whether that’s more of a tribute to the efforts of guys like Sene and Sherrill or more of an indictment on the efforts of guys like Williams and Gregory. Virginia won the rebounding battle, 32-29, on Saturday. Most impressive was how well the Cavaliers rebounded on the offensive end of the court, where they turned 11 offensive boards into 14 second chance points. Maryland, meantime, managed seven offensive rebounds and six second chance points. Sene and Sherrill combined to tally 14 rebounds, while Williams and Gregory combined to grab nine boards.

* This was not the result of a scientific study. Just thought I’d make that clear.

2) Transition play. Not even two months ago, Virginia routinely was getting pounded in transition defense. The Cavaliers were disorganized, slow to react and porous. On Saturday, Virginia gave up just two fast break points and no points off of its six turnovers. Granted, committing only six turnovers goes a long way toward limiting transition defense situations, but still, improvement has been made in this regard. And the Cavaliers have been more opportunistic in transition offense, as well. They turned 11 Maryland turnovers into 12 points.

3) Sammy Zeglinski. The junior guard had not been shooting well of late. At all. As in, he had shot a combined 4 for 21 from the field in the two games prior to Saturday’s contest at Maryland. Zeglinski said he met late last week with coach Tony Bennett and assistant Ritchie McKay, and together they worked through some mechanical issues that had developed in Zeglinski’s shooting form. Whatever the changes were – Zeglinski declined to reveal them after the game Saturday – they worked. He shot 7 for 11 from the field and made 6 of 7 three-point attempts en route to recording a career-high 25 points. One could argue that Zeglinski creates as much separation coming off a screen to get himself a clean shot as any other player in the conference.

Three Down:

1) Five-minute stretch. Sure, the game was close throughout the first half, but with the exception of one five-minute stretch during the second half, the Cavaliers controlled the game’s proceedings. During that stretch, however, Maryland narrowed what had been a 12-point Virginia lead to five, and it appeared as though the momentum was shifting forcefully in favor of the Terrapins. Given that it was Maryland’s Senior Day and all, it wasn’t difficult to predict a collapse by the visitors and a stirring come-from-behind victory for the home team. But, obviously, that didn’t happen. To Virginia’s credit, the Cavaliers did not fold under the literal and figurative pressure they faced.

2) Off shooting nights for Sherrill and Joe Harris. We’re just being picky at this point. Yeah, Sherrill and Harris shot a combined 3 for 15 (20 percent) from the field Saturday, but with Zeglinski shooting lights out and with Mustapha Farrakhan (6 for 14, 19 points) and Sene (7 for 9, 15 points) chipping in, the offensive struggles of Sherrill and Harris were not felt as acutely as they might have been on other nights.

3) N/a.

By Steve Yanda  | March 7, 2011; 8:00 AM ET
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Next: Will Sherrill, Will Regan earn all-ACC academic team honors


Thanks for the Coverage Steve!

As a late 80's UVa alum - I am very excited with the direction Tony B. has UVa headed. We look well coached and cohesive for the first time since Jones and Holland. It's so nice to see us handle the terps and their pressure and crowd with fundamentals, defense, hustle, taking good shots, few turnovers. Oh it's sweet to be a DC area Wahoo after saturday. Love getting my Sunday Washinton Post.

With the progress we've shown with Mike Scott being out, playing lot's of freshmen and Tony Bennett's recruiting to his system (beginning to upgrade bottom of the ACC talent level), I see us back as a perennial NCAA tournament team and occasionally challenging duke/unc in the conference (I think we return to the 3-6 seed range or better starting next year - challenging the Terps, etc.). I see our first ACC tournament win since 1976 coming in the next few years....

Posted by: IwillkickyourrightwingA | March 7, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Agreed! It was such a pleasant surprise for a UVa team to over-achieve after last year's arguably more talented team typically under-achieved. After hearing Tony B on the Junkies this morning, I'm even more convinced that he has this program headed in the right direction.

Posted by: jburksva | March 7, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

A very pleasant surprise, indeed. I hope the 'hoos can build on the momentum next season.

Posted by: frenchyb | March 7, 2011 1:21 PM | Report abuse

You are right - I would not have raised my hand. I am a Syracuse guy Hoo moved to Charlottesville 15 years ago. I am a Uva fan except when UVa and the Orangemen meet at Lacrosse. (Then I hedge my bets by wearing a Syracuse sweatshirt and a Virgina cap!) I can see Tony B & Mike K having the kind of rivalry Jim B. & and John T used to have in a couple of years. Bennet is Top Shelf. Hats off to him and his troops.

Posted by: pms61syr | March 7, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Terps looked like they assumed an easy win in this one, and they paid the price. Zeglinski was playing at a whole new level. The kid just couldn't miss. An awe-inspiring performance.

Huge game against Miami on Thursday. Notching a win in the ACC Tourney will build confidence and earn a ticket to the NIT, which is a big step forward for a rebuilding program.

Posted by: 2kHoo | March 8, 2011 12:30 AM | Report abuse

I'm proud of the Hoos and hopeful for what Bennett is building, but I’ve always been a what if guy. Imagine for a minute “what if” Mike Scott, Sherrill and Zeglinski had all been healthy the entire season. Then imagine if Sylven Landesberg had stayed for his Jr. year! What if Tristan Spurlock had lived up to his 4* recruit potential, and Jeff Jones had stayed and finally been consistent, and Billy Baron had continued on his early season blistering pace… I could go on forever.

Posted by: ant9d | March 8, 2011 9:41 PM | Report abuse

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