Virginia vs. Boston College: Cavaliers lackluster in 63-44 loss

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 27, 2011

CHARLOTTESVILLE - There had been talk in these parts in recent days about whether the Virginia men's basketball team could finish the season with a strong enough push to earn a National Invitation Tournament berth. Such an accomplishment would be a significant step forward for a program that has not finished higher than 10th in the ACC standings since the 2006-07 campaign.

Entering Saturday's game against Boston College, the Cavaliers had won consecutive games, scratched their way above .500 and demonstrated considerable progress in their understanding of the defensive concepts Coach Tony Bennett holds dear - all of which made Virginia's performance in a 63-44 loss to the Eagles more crushing to its postseason hopes.

At times this season, Virginia's offensive ineptitude has led to problems on defense. But Bennett said Saturday's defensive breakdowns were not a byproduct of his team's offensive struggles, which pointed to what the coach described as a more "discouraging" issue: After enduring two months of tribulations while making subtle progress, the Cavaliers suffered a definitive setback because the effort simply wasn't there.

"I just felt like we didn't fight," said sophomore guard Jontel Evans, who shot 1 of 8 from the field. "We had no energy and we wasn't paying attention to detail on the defensive end."

When asked whether he thought Virginia (14-14, 5-9) had gotten past the point of having its development stunted by such controllable factors, senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan responded: "Yeah, but I guess it'll creep back up and happen."

It took the Eagles nearly 12 minutes to score more than 10 points, but Bennett wondered how much of that should be attributed to poor shooting on Boston College's part or solid defense from the Cavaliers. With 2 minutes 20 seconds remaining in the first half, Virginia held a 28-21 lead. Boston College (17-11, 7-7) then engineered a 26-4 run that spanned 11:19 between the first and second halves.

The Cavaliers scored 16 points in the second half, marking the fifth time this season that Virginia failed to score more than 20 points in a single half.

Meantime, Boston College received a combined 32 points from guard Reggie Jackson and forwards Corey Raji and Joe Trapani in the second half (they were the only Eagles to score after the break). Jackson finished with a game-high 25 points, while Raji tacked on 17.

"We've had games like this before where we haven't been able to hit the shots or have enough guys scoring, but this was one of the first games where I felt like we really got outplayed defensively," Bennett said. "It was 28-21. It kind of came easy early for us, but then from that point on our defense really let us down."

The biggest problem for the Cavaliers was a lack of communication on defense against Boston College's offense, which relies heavily on backdoor cuts. The Cavaliers acknowledged it was concerning that such a correctable issue - simply talking with one another on the court - remained unadjusted throughout the game.

"I don't know what it was, really; I don't know," said freshman guard Joe Harris, who recorded a game-high 10 rebounds but shot just 2 of 7 from the field and 1 of 6 from three-point range. "We really didn't have anybody step up and say, 'We need to start talking,' and that kind of thing. I don't know.

"I mean, the blame can go on anybody you want to say that. I mean, even the freshmen, we can step up and say something. It doesn't have to be the upperclassmen to be leaders. But we lacked that today."

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