UVa’s Sean Singletary tied his career high for assists with 9.
The Virginia men’s basketball team continued its early season warm-up tour Sunday with its most impressive showing since the Arizona win. The Cavaliers dominated the boards at the start and cranked up the offense to roll past Maryland Eastern Shore, 104-63. The victory provided the first four-game winning streak of the Dave Leitao era as the Hoos improved to 4-0 on the season.
Needless to say, Leitao was much more pleased with this effort than the last two games against Morgan State and UNC Asheville. Just how much better did the Hoos perform? It was the first 100-point offensive game since 2001 and the final line-up, thanks to what was nearly a 40-point lead, featured Jerome Meyinsse , Andy Burns, Damin Altizer, Bob McCormick, and David Noel.
“In the three-game stretch that we just played, obviously the score indicates that we played a lot better than in the other two,” Leitao said. “The continued challenge that I give to these guys is that we can get better and become whole. I think we did a really good job of taking a bigger step today toward becoming whole and what we need to look like and how we need to play.”
The Cavs featured far less defensive breakdowns and mental lapses in this game. Overall, Eastern Shore shot 37.3%, but most of those shots were contested unlike some attempts from Morgan State and Asheville. Just as importantly, the Hoos didn’t have any sort of second half stretch where the other team slowly chipped away at the lead. In fact, UVa seemed to pick it up defensively – the statistics support that notion because the Hawks made just 11 of 36 shots (30.6%) after intermission.
“More important than anything, we continued to play possession by possession,” Leitao said. “We talked about it at halftime, about continuing the challenge of defending every play. … So, I’m happy with the overall performance.”
One player who made certain that this game featured fewer letdowns was Jason Cain, who had a strong effort against UMES. Cain poured in a career-high 22 points and 8 rebounds, including a monster first half showing that featured 16 points (his previous career high), 6 rebounds, 1 block, and 1 steal.
The Hawks were a perfect match-up for Cain because they have just two players taller than 6’7”. Cain was much stronger and quicker than his adversaries and took full advantage throughout the day. Among the “Stache” highlights:
- A face-up and drive from the short corner against Eastern Shore’s zone in the first half. Cain faked middle and drove baseline before taking off for a thunderous two-handed jam.
- A 17-foot jumper from short corner extended against that same zone.
- Taking the ball at the top of the key as the trailer on the fastbreak, facing up, and driving the lane for a finger roll in the second half.
Jason Cain poured in a career-high 22 points on the day.
J.R. Reynolds laughed a little bit when asked about the finger roll, saying “It was nice, it was nice” with a wide grin.
Cain also got a chuckle out of the play.
“I just didn’t have the legs to dunk that one,” Cain said laughing.
Other statistical stars included Reynolds (22 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal), Mamadi Diane (17 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), Sean Singletary (11 points, 9 assists, 6 turnovers – the 9 dimes match a career high), Jamil Tucker (8 points, 5 rebounds), and Meyinsse (9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block).
Meyinsse’s development continues to be one of the storylines from recent games. Since entering the game against Morgan State for 7 minutes, he has logged back-to-back games with double-digit minutes. Though still a raw talent, he has shown some good footwork in the post and solid court awareness. Throw in the fact that he works hard in both practice and in games and it is easy to see why he has forced his way onto the floor for these recent contests.
“He’s a very good player, a very tough player. He’s young too, that’s the thing,” Reynolds said. “I’m definitely excited about [where he can go].”
Virginia now has to take the show on the road for the first time this season when it travels to Purdue on Wednesday for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. As UVa fans are all aware, that has not been the strong suit of many of the school’s programs, including this team last season. Leitao knows improving on the road is part of taking the next step.
“We still have a long way to go. This opportunity that we have in front of us – a challenge on Wednesday – to do something that we didn’t do real well last year, which is to win on the road,” Leitao said. “That opportunity will be there and we’ll face adversity, the crowd, and the other team. Purdue has a solid team with an inside-outside attack. We will use this opportunity to get ourselves better and to test ourselves in a hostile environment and see how we do.”
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