Senior guard Sean Singletary had 20 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The Virginia men’s basketball team’s December tune-up tour continued on Saturday with a 30-point blowout against visiting Elon. The Cavaliers took the lead less than five minutes in to the game and efficiently pulled away to the 91-61 win. UVa shot 50% from the field, racked up 20 assists, and committed just 9 turnovers in the comfortable victory.
Cav coach Dave Leitao was pleased with his team’s focus with a holiday break looming once the game was finished.
“I told the guys that I thought we did a much better overall job today on both ends of playing a little bit more together like we’re supposed to play and obviously the score reflects that,” Leitao said. “Before you leave for break, sometimes guys are thinking about Christmas before they’re thinking about the game so I’m proud of all the guys in that way. Hopefully, I can say that it’s continuing to help us grow as a team and if that’s the case, then it comes at the right time.”
The Hoos’ two primary point guards were certainly in the giving mood of the season. Sean Singletary handed out a game-high 8 assists, while Calvin Baker came off the bench with a UVa career-high 6 assists (he posted that total four times while at William & Mary). That duo also combined for just 4 turnovers.
The helpers were just part of a very solid afternoon for Singletary, who had his smoothest game of the season against the Phoenix. The senior guard made 5 of 7 shots overall, including 3 of 4 3-pointers to finish with 20 points; he also converted 7 of 9 free throws. He also added 5 rebounds and 3 steals to the stat total as well. And Singletary did all that in 28 minutes. Saturday’s numbers moved Singletary to 12th place on Virginia’s all-time scoring list (his 1,632 points have surpassed Bob McCarty’s 1,625) and in to an 8th place tie with Adam Hall on the all-time steals list with 157. Singletary has scored in double figures 33 straight games, the longest active streak in the ACC.
It may be a sign that Singletary is starting to settle in with his new teammates and as the primary playmaker with many line-ups on the floor, a role he had the luxury of sharing for three years with J.R. Reynolds.
“The last few days I think he’s just decided mentally to turn up the speed, be more himself, and instead of letting the game come to him, just take himself and his talent to the game,” Leitao said. “It’s speed. It’s aggression. He’s done a great job of taking shots early in the possession because he can pull up from three, and he’s better defensively. He was a more responsible version of himself.”
After going scoreless in the first half, Adrian Joseph poured in 16 points after intermission, including 10 straight to start the half.
Singletary wasn’t the only Hoo in a groove on Saturday.
Jeff Jones had his best game of the month, contributing 10 points and 4 rebounds. Jerome Meyinsse backed up his Hampton showing with a career-high 12 points on the strength of 5-of-5 shooting. Will Harris chipped in 7 points and 5 rebounds by making 2-of-3 3-pointers. Adrian Joseph poured it on after halftime with 16 points; after starting 0 for 3 with 0 points in the first half, Joseph hit 6 of 9 shots after intermission. Mamadi Diane also hit 4 of 8 shots to finish with 9 points. Both Diane and Joseph had 2 steals as well.
Even Mike Scott, who struggled from the field, had a good statistical outing with 6 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 block.
In other words, it was a surgical dismantling of the Phoenix. The Cavaliers had too much depth, too much athleticism, and too much talent for Elon to even keep it close.
“Virginia has a very good basketball team. They have very good depth and athleticism, and of course they have one significantly outstanding basketball player. They’re very difficult for us to play against unless we play a maximum game, which we didn’t tonight,” Phoenix coach Ernie Nestor said. “We had a little foul trouble, and we’re fighting through some injuries. We weren’t at peak performance, and so that makes it difficult for us to compete against this level of athleticism.”
Jerome Meyinsse scored a career-high 12 points against Elon.
While the talent differential played a definitive role, Leitao pointed to his team’s recent practice habits as the key component of the improved play after the exam break. He said the team has been working harder and working more efficiently. Plus, individual players like Meyinsse are translating what’s been emphasized in practice to the game floor.
The results are starting to show for themselves, but the looks of the players are speaking volumes as well. There was a lot of smiling, joking, and carrying on among the Cavaliers on Saturday.
“It’s kind of the mood right now because they’ve been working hard and when you work harder the game becomes a little bit more enjoyable,” Leitao said. “I’m screaming a whole lot less. I didn’t do a whole lot today because quite honestly they didn’t need it. It wasn’t for motivation or for coaching. It was the same way yesterday, the same way the day before. They decided collectively to work a whole lot harder and be more efficient. When you do that, the game becomes a whole lot more fun.”
“I feel pretty comfortable out there. It definitely started from practice,” Singletary said. “We are having good practices as a team. When we have good practice, the chemistry develops and we give each other positive energy. We give each other confidence and energy and then we’re a solid team like that.”