Mike Scott had 15 points and 6 rebounds against Hampton.
While meeting with the media Tuesday, Virginia coach Dave Leitao said he still wasn’t happy with the progress of his basketball team after unimpressive outings against Syracuse and Longwood led the Hoos to their exam break. After defeating Hampton 79-65 on Wednesday, Leitao wasn’t content, but he was pleased with some encouraging signs.
“I was anxious to get back on the court to see where we were at from two weeks ago, not just with the lay-off but because we hadn’t played really good basketball before that,” Leitao said. “Do I think we played a great game? No. But I thought we played pretty well given the circumstances with all the things we’re facing, obviously not with just the lay-off but with injuries and that kind of thing. … We ended up winning the game by enough of a margin that it gives you an opportunity to think that you’re on the road to becoming a better team.”
The Cavaliers handled the myriad defenses that the Pirates brought to the table, rebounded well (42-32), improved defensively (36.5% shooting allowed), and found more offensive variety in the victory. That has to be considered a step in the right direction, especially since it came against a team that had not lost by double figures all season long. The Cavs’ 79 points represent the most scored by a team against Hampton this season, which entered the game ranked 13th nationally in scoring defense (55.9 points per game).
“They shoot a lot of 3’s so we were prepared for the 3,” Pirates coach Kevin Nickelberry said. “They did a good job of getting the ball inside. We chased [Sean] Singletary off the line and tried to chase [Mamadi] Diane off the line. Our goal coming in was for Diane and Singletary not to score.”
Indeed the play in the post was a key part of the Hoos’ success as UVa attacked that area more often in the Hampton game than at any point this season. While many of the looks to the post came out of pressbreak or secondary break opportunities, it still was a notable change in the recent trend.
Jerome Meyinsse scored 9 points and led the team with 9 rebounds.
Mike Scott (who started at center due to injuries to Ryan Pettinella, Laurynas Mikalauskas , and Tunji Soroye ) and Jerome Meyinsse took advantage of the increased focus on the interior. Scott scored a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, while Meyinsse hit 4 of 7 shots en route to 9 points, a number that tied his career best. The duo also led the way on the glass. Meyinsse produced a game- and career-high 9 rebounds, while Scott pulled down 6. Jamil Tucker added 6 defensive boards to the tally as well. Meyinsse also had a nice crosscourt assist out of the post when he found Calvin Baker spotting up on the opposite wing for a 3-pointer.
“There are three ways, I keep telling them, that the ball can be [inside]. It can be entered into the post, it can be driven into the lane, and it can be gotten off the offensive backboard. We’ve got to continue to be able to look at it,” Leitao said. “It’s a hard thing. It’s a thin line between encouraging good shooters to shoot and to look to get shots and a lot of good things we do on the perimeter that I don’t want to take away from because if I get that out of whack and then we’re not real good on the inside then we’ve lost our way a little bit. I’ve got to try to manage our ability and get them to understand that the ball has to enter that 15-foot area more than it does but know at the same point and time that when it does come back out we’ll get even better shots from the perimeter. Again, it becomes a work in progress.”
“Over the past two weeks during exams, [Coach Leitao] really tried to maybe simplify the offense a little bit and stressed to get the ball inside because he thought against Syracuse and Longwood we shot too many jump shots. So he was like we need to get the ball 15 feet and in and a way to do that is to throw the ball inside,” Meyinsse said. “We have worked on [secondary break looks] in practice to drive the ball or push the ball to the corner and let the big man come and post up so we’ll get better post position to look inside. I think we had the same position earlier in the year but the guards weren’t looking inside but since the coaches have stressed it and we’ve been working on it in practice, they saw it more today.”
While something new proved to be the theme of the game, something old proved to be the difference.
Early in the second half, the Cavaliers were still in a nip-and-tuck battle after trailing for much of the first half. In fact, they led by just one point 37-36 at the 19:00 mark. That’s when Adrian Joseph helped his team take control for good.
Adrian Joseph ‘s 19 points included a 12-0 burst that helped put Hampton away.
Joseph, a senior that has been in the thick of the rotation for years, ripped off 12 straight points over the next five minutes as the lead grew from one to eight. First, he canned a 3-pointer on a Calvin Baker assist at the 18:50 mark. He followed that with two more bonus balls at 18:06 (Tucker assist) and 16:59 (Sean Singletary assist). Joseph capped the personal 12-point burst with three more points of the traditional variety – he scored a layup (Will Harris assist) and converted the “and one” free throw with 14:10 to play in the game.
That run gave UVa 49-41 lead and the margin never dropped below eight points for the rest of the game.
Nickelberry said Joseph took advantage of the Pirates’ strategy in the game. Hampton decided to neutralize Singletary and Mamadi Diane with its defense while trying to slow Joseph down by attacking him in the paint on offense. While that decision paid dividends – Diane didn’t score and Singletary didn’t reach double figures for the 32nd consecutive time until 58 seconds remained – it also proved to be the visitors’ undoing when Joseph poured in a team-high 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
“If they want to do that, it’s going to be their loss. If they want to disrespect me like that and leave me wide open, it’s going to happen [like] what happened tonight,” Joseph said. “Shooting perimeter shots, no matter what, if I’m open, I think it’s going in 100 percent of the time.”
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