An exhibition is defined as a public display. In sports lexicon, it falls somewhere between a scrimmage – an informal game – and a showcase – a display, usually of an ideal or a representative model.
UVa’s exhibition with Carson-Newman on Sunday afternoon certainly fit the bill. While the Cavaliers cruised to a 124-65 victory, the contest certainly wasn’t an idealistic model or a pristine picture of what’s to come for the 2007-08 version of Virginia basketball. Instead, it provided a chance for the public to see the players and for Dave Leitao and his staff to evaluate the progress of the team at approximately the one-month checkpoint of the young season.
“It’s a hard game to play when you know you’re physically better than a team. Sometimes when you’re making plays on either end of the floor, are those plays made because we’re carrying over what we’ve been teaching everyday or is it because you’re physically better,” Leitao said. “I thought both of those things were true today that we were physically better and as a result were able to get some things but at the same point in time we looked a little bit more cohesive that I actually that we would because we’ve been so disjointed since we started practice.”
Without question, Virginia physically outmatched CN’s team. The Eagles’ tallest player is listed at 6’8″. UVa, on the other hand, features eight players that are at least that height. Carson-Newman’s biggest player tips the scale at 225. The Hoos have eight players that weigh in at 223 or more. That doesn’t even factor in quickness, leaping ability, and so on.
That’s why this game quickly became a lopsided affair on the scoreboard. Getting the highlights of the boxscore out of the way:
- Adrian Joseph had 22 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist, and 1 steal.
- Mamadi Diane had 19 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and 1 assist.
- Sean Singletary had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
- Tunji Soroye had 6 points and 4 blocks.
- Jeff Jones had 12 points and 6 rebounds.
- Mustapha Farrakhan had 13 points and 5 rebounds.
- Calvin Baker had 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.
- Jamil Tucker had 16 points, 2 blocks, and 2 rebounds.
- Sammy Zeglinski had 6 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals.
- Jerome Meyinsse had 7 points and 7 rebounds.
That sort of mismatch makes it hard to sift through a 59-point blowout if you’re only looking at statistics. But Leitao and his staff will do far more than that as he indicated he would be able to nitpick on things as the team prepares for the season opener next Sunday with Vermont.
What will make the checklist? Starting on the positive side, UVa’s freshmen played fairly well in their first public showing. They all showed a knack for fitting into the flow of the offense and they – like many of Virginia’s veterans – can shoot the basketball. Jones, who started in this game, didn’t seem clueless on the defensive end of the floor like some freshmen often are this early in the season. Zeglinski controlled the game when he ran the point and was able to knock down shots if the defense played him as a pass-first player. Farrakhan looked decent in the open floor.
“It felt great. I was waiting for that day for a long time, just to be out there. Nervous in warm-ups but once you hit the court all the jitters go away,” Zeglinski said. “If I see a shot – like they went under the ball screen and it freed me up to rise up and shoot a 3 – I just have to be able to knock that down.”
“We didn’t want to take nobody for granted. We came out here thinking Carson-Newman could beat us. We’re just going to play hard every single time we step on the floor no matter who it is,” Jones said. “Next week with Vermont, we’re just going to play our best basketball, rebound, play defense, play good offense, execute well, and play our game.”
Other positives included Tucker’s shooting, Meyinsse’s active play, and Soroye’s defensive success. Baker had a very solid floor game and looked comfortable in various roles – slasher, shooter, distributor, defender, and so on. That doesn’t even count the veteran presence of Joseph and Diane, who combined to make 15 of 20 shots. That duo also looked solid on the defensive end with Joseph showing signs with his overall game that he’s picking up where he left off in the Tennessee game from the NCAA Tournament.
“It felt real good. The atmosphere was good. We didn’t have a real big crowd, but the people that did come showed a lot of support,” Baker said. “It felt good. The team chemistry was good. We played well. Overall, it was a good day.”
The Hoos weren’t perfect, though. That’s where the nitpicking will come in with the coaches. The zone defense wasn’t active enough for example. Weakside defenders in both man and zone defense didn’t block out rebounders consistently. UVa lost players in transition a few times. The team let a few fastbreak opportunities slip by with poor execution.
In other words, there is plenty of room to grow.
“There wasn’t really any drop-off in the level of play. I thought there was good intensity on defense for the most part for most of the game and it didn’t matter who was in the game, which is a good sign and something we can build off of,” Leitao said. “Obviously we’ve still got a ton of work to do, but a game like this I can afford myself and my staff the opportunity to nitpick and try to get better at a lot of different things going in to what will be our first game next week.”
The exhibition did not provide a glimpse at UVa’s entire roster. Will Harris , Mike Scott, and Solomon Tat all sat out with injuries while Lars Mikalauskas did not play for reasons internal to the team. Mikalauskas’ availability for Vermont next weekend will be determined prior to that contest. Leitao said he expects everyone but Tat to be ready to go by next Sunday.
“I think [they’ll be ready]. I’m hoping most – I don’t think we’ll see Solomon yet; he’s still two or three weeks away. But other than that, I think everybody should be physically ready to go,” Leitao said.
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