Well, we knew No. 24 Virginia wasn’t going to hold all of its opponents to fewer than 60 points. The streak – which had reached 10 games – was going to end at some point.
Predicting the streak would be snapped by Seattle University might have been difficult, considering how well the Cavaliers had played of late.
Then again, Seattle defeated Virginia last season in Charlottesville, so maybe we should have anticipated the Redhawks putting up a stiffer fight. That’s exactly what they did. The Cavaliers won, 83-77, at Seattle on Wednesday night thanks in large part to the contributions of fifth-year senior forward Mike Scott, but the game did not go smoothly at all for Coach Tony Bennett’s squad.
Virginia now is 10-1 – the program’s best start since the 2000-01 campaign – and that should be encouraging for Cavaliers’ fans. But for the second straight game, it was blatantly apparent just how vital Scott is to the fortunes of this season’s team. He kept the Cavaliers close in the first half and helped them pull away for a bit in the second half.
After a two-game road trip out west, Virginia has a short break before resuming non-conference play next Tuesday.
“We weren’t ready defensively to start,” Bennett told reporters Wednesday night. “They got easy buckets. They got second-chance points, transition baskets, and they came after 5, 10 minutes saying, ‘These guys aren’t very good. We can certainly take it to them.’ And without Mike Scott having that monster first half – he was terrific offensively – that thing might have separated to a point that would have been extremely difficult to get back in it. We certainly got out of sorts, but we’ll learn from it. We’ll grow from it.”
1) Mike Scott. After making 12 of 14 shots from the field Wednesday, Scott now is shooting 63.3 percent from the field on the season. He is averaging 17.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He also is tied for third on the team in assists (19). But as for Wednesday night, Scott largely carried the Cavaliers on offense in the first half. He scored 19 of Virginia’s 36 points before the break, at which point the Cavaliers trailed by two. Scott finished with a career-high 33 points (which included making 9 of 11 free throws) and 14 rebounds.
Scott “was in the zone,” Bennett told reporters. “He really was. His touch was great. He has that versatility to go back to the basket, face you up, and he had his touch, and he made some nice passes, and again, that kept us in the game, and that was an impressive offensive performance.”
2) Shooting. Offense was not really an issue for Virginia on this night. The Cavaliers shot 46.9 percent from the field in the first half and 73.3 percent from the field in the second. It should be noted, however, that Virginia attempted just 15 shots from the field after halftime; the Cavaliers attempted 32 shots in the first. Scott’s 12 of 14 shooting performance helped, obviously. But sophomore guard Joe Harris made 4 of 8 shots, junior guard Jontel Evans made 4 of 7 shots and fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski made 3 of 5 shots, as well.
3) Second-half free-throw shooting. Part of the reason why the Cavaliers didn’t attempt too many shots after the break was because they spent so much time at the free throw line. Virginia attempted 31 shots from the charity stripe in the second half Wednesday; the Cavaliers made 23 of them (74.2 percent). On the night, Virginia made 27 of 38 (71.1 percent) free throws. Scott made 9 of 11. Harris made 5 of 6. Freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon made 8 of 9.
1) Handling full-court pressure. With just less than nine minutes remaining in the game, Virginia took a 63-49 lead. But the Cavaliers committed a slew of turnovers in the following minutes as a result of their inability to handle Seattle’s full-court pressure. Virginia trailed, 68-67, with 3 minutes, 25 seconds left to play. The Cavaliers tallied 14 turnovers on the night, which isn’t an obscene amount. But the manner in which they occurred could not have been pleasing to Bennett. Scott, Evans and Zeglinski each recorded three turnovers, and Virginia ended up with fewer assists (12) than turnovers against Seattle. On the season, the Cavaliers’ assist-to-turnover ratio (1.05) is less than ideal.
“When they made some tough shots, they had energy,” Bennett told reporters. “We were up , it shouldn’t have come to that point, where they closed it down, but that was turnovers against the pressure. We made some free throws down the stretch, so I’ll find something positive to end on.”
2) Defense. What happened here? Seattle entered the night shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 27.1 percent from three-point range. On Wednesday, the Redhawks shot 46 percent from the field – 57.7 percent in the first half – and 36.4 percent (8 for 22) from three-point range. Some nights, a team is just on, and maybe that’s what Virginia ran into. But the Cavaliers sure had a lot of trouble stopping Seattle forward Aaron Broussard (29 points on 12 of 17 shooting and eight rebounds) and guard Sterling Carter (17 points, six rebounds). Broussard and Carter combined to score 34 points during Seattle’s upset win at Virginia.
“They did make some tough shots,” Bennett told reporters. “And I thought our defense got a little better in the second half, but then we couldn’t come up with a rebound, and then it sort of unraveled against the ball screen late in the game.”
3) Rebounding. Entering Wednesday, Virginia had been out-rebounded only three times this season, and all three of those occasions occurred during the Cavaliers’ mostly-dreadful trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Virginia entered the night with a plus-7.6 rebounding margin. But against a Seattle squad that isn’t particularly known for its prowess on the boards, the Cavaliers were out-rebounded, 32-31. Seattle tallied 13 second-chance points Wednesday, which was something Virginia effectively had been able to limit in previous games. Scott recorded a game-high 14 rebounds against Seattle, but no other Cavalier recorded more than three boards.
“Seattle probably played harder than us tonight, which is discouraging,” Zeglinski told reporters after the game. “But at the same time I think we stuck together in the last two minutes of the game, maybe last year we would have [splintered]. But the difference this year with this team is the leadership, and just the unity is on a whole different level.”