Depending on how much stock you put into Virginia’s consecutive losses at North Carolina and at Clemson, the Cavaliers either did what they were supposed to do Saturday against Maryland or did what they had to do.
Some were calling this a must-win game for Coach Tony Bennett’s squad. After all, Virginia entered the day having dropped three of its past four games and likely could not afford another loss to a team ranked outside the top 90 in the nation in RPI. Fifth-year senior forward Mike Scott said there was no panic among the Cavaliers, but at the very least, there was a measure of concern.
Sophomore guard Joe Harris and several other players had commented in recent days that the team had lost a degree of the mental toughness that had propelled Virginia to its best start to a season in three decades. And with Saturday’s game tied at 31 entering halftime, the Cavaliers were in prime position to prove whether they could gain it back.
Virginia won, 71-44, its largest margin of defeat over Maryland since 1989. The Terrapins scored 13 points in the second half. Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, did not register a single point after the break.
“The last couple of games, we didn’t impose our will,” junior guard Jontel Evans said. “Guys were getting easy shots, which was hard on us. So tonight we wanted to come in with the mind-set that we was going to be tough and aggressive on the defensive end and impose our will. That’s what we did.”
1) Defense on Terrell Stoglin. Credit should be spread to Evans, freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon and fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski for this one. Stoglin scored 14 points and made 4 of 6 three-pointers in the first half, but Zeglinski was in his face for nearly every one of them. As Bennett said afterward, “I don’t think [Stoglin] had any easy ones tonight that I can recall.” Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, the guy who entered Saturday having tallied 31.3 percent of his team’s points on the season, missed all seven of the shots he attempted and did not attempt a free throw in the second half.
2) Malcolm Brogdon. The freshman guard has assumed a larger role of late as sophomore guard Joe Harris continues to grow accustomed to playing with a broken left (non-shooting) hand. Brogdon didn’t get the start Saturday as he had Tuesday at Clemson, but he made a major impact off the bench. Brogdon finished with 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting (including making 2 of 2 three-point attempts) in 27 minutes. As was previously mentioned, he also helped defend Stoglin, which is no easy task.
“In a way, he grew up some more today,” Bennett said of Brogdon. “He had a nice game. He had a real good first half against Clemson, but he was disappointed in his second half, and we were too. He went turnover-free [Saturday], and he attacked the lanes when there were openings. He was real sturdy defensively, and I thought that ability – you know, when you have some mass and some length like he does, it’s hard for a guy to get by him. I thought that helped us a lot. He really moved his feet and played a complete game, the most complete game that he’s had all year.”
3) Sammy Zeglinski. Yeah, yeah, we know Mike Scott scored 25 points and was a major factor in Virginia’s decisive victory Saturday. But by this point in the season, such performances from Scott should not come as much surprise. What isn’t so certain is how Zeglinski will fare from night to night, and so it had to have been encouraging for Bennett to see Zeglinski turn in such a solid overall performance against the Terrapins. He played admirable defense on Stoglin, as well as Maryland guard Nick Faust. He finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two steals. He made not one, but two three-pointers, which is significant considering Zeglinski had not made more than one three-point attempt in a game since Jan. 28 – a string of five games.
“He’s been playing real good floor games,” Bennett said of Zeglinski. “I know he’s certainly been struggling with his shot, but he’s actually been improving in terms of his ability to get into the lane and making some plays for others, guarding the other players on the perimeter, one of their leading scorers. … When he got a couple of buckets to go down that certainly made a difference. No one could be more pleased or happy for Sammy, other than himself, than I am, because I know how hard he’s battling, and I know it’s weighing on him. He gave us a great lift.”
1) You know, folks, there are some games when this section doesn’t serve much purpose. Maryland tallied 0.39 points per possession in the second half. It’s difficult to describe just how awful that is.
So yeah, this was one of those games.