Cavaliers, Farrakhan are lights out in rout
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
CHARLOTTESVILLE - Fortune did not visit John Paul Jones Arena often during the month of December, so when it did on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers made sure they were grateful hosts. Virginia made nine consecutive three-pointers during a first half in which it opened as much as a 15-point lead on Howard.
The Cavaliers, who for the first time in recent memory possessed a hot shooting touch, coasted in the second half and closed out their nonconference slate with an 84-63 victory. Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan - who had made one of his previous 16 three-point attempts entering the game - connected on eight consecutive shots from beyond the arc and finished with a career-high 31 points.
"That was a nice zone I was in," said Farrakhan, who shot 11 for 12 from the field and 8 for 9 from three-point range. "The basketball rim felt like a hula hoop out there today."
And not just for Farrakhan. The Cavaliers shot 66.7 percent from the field - their highest shooting percentage in a game since the 1984-85 season - and made 16 of 25 attempts from three-point range.
Even after defeating a dismal Louisiana State squad, 64-50, on Sunday, Virginia (10-5) was in need of a confidence surge. After earning a three-point win at Virginia Tech on Dec. 5, the Cavaliers limped - literally and figuratively - through the next four weeks.
Virginia shot worse than 36 percent from the field in four of its previous six games entering Tuesday night. But against Howard, the Cavaliers found their collective stroke. Virginia shot 76.2 percent from the field in the first half, marking the first time it had shot higher than 70 percent in a half since February 1996.
Freshman guard Joe Harris had missed 15 of his last 18 three-point attempts entering Tuesday. But he shot 5 for 6 from beyond the arc against Howard.
Junior center Assane Sene had made four shots from the field in his past six games combined. He shot 4 for 4 from the field Tuesday and recorded a career-high nine points.
The night was not entirely restorative for Virginia, however. Senior forward Will Sherrill, who missed five games after fracturing the fibula in his right leg Nov. 29 at Minnesota, was kicked in the shin on the spot of the break less than four minutes into the game. He left and did not return as a precautionary measure.
Sherrill, a usual starter, had not practiced Monday and said his leg "was bothering me pretty badly" during the team's Tuesday morning shoot-around and in pregame warmups. But since the bone is not weight-bearing, Sherrill said, he was allowed to play as much as his pain tolerance would allow.
Sherrill underwent X-rays after the game to make sure the break had not worsened. He said the results revealed the crack was the same as before and estimated it would take "a couple more weeks" until the leg had completely healed.
The Cavaliers also were without senior forward Mike Scott, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, who wore a protective boot on his injured left ankle. Bennett said afterward that Scott's prognosis remains unclear.
Virginia could manage without two of its key performers on a night in which it shot so well despite Howard (2-11) shooting 53.3 percent from the field. When the Cavaliers resume ACC play on Saturday against North Carolina (10-4), they're hoping to see a carry-over effect.
"It's all about confidence," said sophomore guard Jontel Evans, who tallied a career-high 10 assists. "I think tonight was a big confidence builder, for sure. I think we can take that shooting performance into Saturday with the same mind-set that we can knock down shots like that."