The Virginia men’s basketball team claimed a 68-42 win over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday night, and that was a positive step for a team that had been in a bit of a recent offensive slump. The Cavaliers shot 51.1 percent from the field and out-rebounded the Phoenix, 37-26. Sophomore guard KT Harrell came off the bench to score 14 points.
But perhaps the most interesting development to occur Friday was not necessarily a good thing. With just more than 12 minutes remaining in the second half, sophomore forward Akil Mitchell pulled down a defensive rebound and landed on the outside of fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski’s right foot.
That, in and of itself, might not have been a bad thing, except Zeglinski has been dealing with a sprained right ankle for the past three weeks. Zeglinski immediately asked to be taken out of the game and limped off the floor. He and Ethan Saliba, Virginia’s head athletic trainer, retreated to the locker room, where Zeglinski underwent an X-ray exam.
Coach Tony Bennett and Zeglinski said afterward the results were negative, which is encouraging. But the sight of Zeglinski hobbling once more is not. For the record, Zeglinski said he “definitely” would play Tuesday when the Cavaliers host Michigan in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. How close he’ll be to full strength remains to be seen.
1) KT Harrell. Friday marked the first time this season Harrell was not in the Virginia starting lineup. He entered the night shooting 31.3 percent from the field, and Bennett thought Zeglinski had looked good in practice Thursday, so Zeglinski got the start at shooting guard instead of Harrell. Before the game, Harrell told Bennett he wanted to get back to playing with the passion and fire that he used to compete with. Harrell admitted his confidence had grown shaky, which led to him being less emotive on the court. On Friday, Harrell was, indeed, more fiery than usual and apparently it helped. He shot 5 of 8 from the field and scored 14 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
2) Defense. Through six games, Virginia is holding opponents to 45.3 points per game, 33.4 percent shooting from the field and 23.8 percent from three-point range. Granted, the quality of the opposition has not been all that stellar. Still, those are pretty low numbers. Thirteen minutes 21 seconds ran off the game clock Friday before Green Bay reached double-digits in scoring. The Phoenix tallied just 19 points in the second half. They shot 30 percent from the field and made 2 of 11 three-pointers (18.2 percent) on the night.
3) Darion Atkins. Sure, the freshman forward picked up four personal fouls in 13 minutes of action. But in limited playing time in his collegiate debut, Atkins demonstrated some of the raw athleticism that has the Virginia coaching staff excited about his potential. With just more than two minutes remaining in the second half, redshirt freshman forward James Johnson missed a short shot, but Atkins soared in for a put-back dunk that drew a loud cheer from what remained of the John Paul Jones Arena crowd. Atkins, who was suspended for the first three games of the season for a violation of team rules and did not make it into either of Virginia’s previous two games, finished with two points, three rebounds and one steal on the night.
1) Persistent injuries. It would be easy to feel sorry for Zeglinski, who has battled through an assortment of injuries (ankle, hip, knee) throughout his collegiate career. But while he acknowledged Friday’s aggravation of his right ankle sprain was “disheartening,” he said he’s not one to get down on himself. In 21 minutes against Green Bay, Zeglinski shot 1 for 4 from the field and finished with two points, two steals, one rebound, one assist and one turnover. He said he will play in Virginia’s next game. Fifth-year senior forward Mike Scott said he expects Zeglinski to participate in practice Saturday. But with Zeglinski’s injury history and the fact that this ankle injury has been aggravated twice now, it will be interesting to see how available Zeglinski is to play Tuesday when Michigan comes to town.
2) Three-point shooting. Virginia shot 2 for 8 from three-point range Friday. The Cavaliers attempted only two three-pointers in the second half, and both of them came in the closing minutes off the hands of walk-on guard Thomas Rogers. Through six games, Virginia is shooting 32.5 percent from three-point range. Last season, the Cavaliers led the ACC in three-point shooting percentage (38.8 percent).
“I don’t think anybody shot it real well down at [the Paradise Jam], but we’re going to have to knock down some of those outside shots,” Bennett said. “Certainly Joe [Harris] and KT and Sammy are capable of that. … To shoot a quick three that’s contested isn’t always in our best interest, and I thought they had a little more composure after our TCU game [a 57-55 loss Nov. 18]. We were a little panicked, and we shot quick and a lot of them were contested.
“I thought they had a little more discipline and getting the ball rotated and then take what the defense gives ‘em [on Friday], whether it’s a rhythm three or an inside touch or attack the paint. But [against] certain teams, you’ll have to be able to stick those shots. My hope is that we’ll be able to shoot it well in those situations.”
3) James Johnson. He’s still relatively inexperienced, so it’s hard to be too critical of the redshirt freshman forward. But it seems after six games that perhaps the expectations of Johnson heading into the season were a bit inflated. He doesn’t seem to be all that comfortable on either end of the floor, and that likely is affecting his productivity. He logged seven minutes Friday and finished with one point, three rebounds, one personal foul and one turnover. He made 1 of 4 free throws. In 31 minutes of action so far this season, Johnson has tallied as many personal fouls (seven) as rebounds.