Hoos Win Exhibition Contest

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Jeff Jones had a team-high 18 points.

The Virginia men’s basketball team’s sole public tune-up game unfolded as expected Sunday afternoon at the John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers spread out the minutes, experimented with line-up looks, and worked on many sets that have undoubtedly occupied preseason practices. In the end, the Hoos slowly dissected Division II Shepherd despite poor free throw shooting (15 of 26) before winning 87-52.

“The first time we’ve had the opportunity publicly to start the process of evaluating and figuring out our group,” UVa coach Dave Leitao said. “Obviously I’ve got to watch the film to get a complete understanding of what was good, what was not, and what we’ve got to work on.”

Virginia held Shepherd to 27.4% shooting and just 26 defensive rebounds (37 total). The Cavaliers also had 6 steals and 4 blocks while forcing 17 total turnovers. The Hoos did give up a pair of double-digit lines to Liki Turner (14 points) and Justin Jarman (16 points, 13 rebounds), but for the most part it was a much better effort on the defensive end of the floor despite the fact that UVa played 14 players.

“For me, my mindset has been coming into the season that we have to do a better job defensively at every stage all season long beginning with today. I thought pretty much we did that,” Leitao said. “Not necessarily dominating a team physically or because you happen to be deeper or better, but the right rotations and the right plays at the right time. I thought by and large there are things we still need to work on, but at the same point and time we did a better job than I thought we would, especially at this stage.”

Among the scoring standouts, the Cavaliers created plenty of production at the wing positions where Jeff Jones , Mustapha Farrakhan , and Mamadi Diane all contributed. Diane delivered 14 points and looked like the elder statesman out there.

Jones picked up in the same shooting rhythm that he had to finish out the 2007-08 season. Jones, who had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting in the final game of last season, opened with 14 first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting. By the end of the game, he had 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (3 of 6 on 3-pointers).

Jones said he’s trying to embrace a bigger role on this year’s team.

“Coach said that everybody on the team has got to act older. If you’re a sophomore, you have to be a junior, if you’re a junior you have to be a senior,” Jones said. “So I definitely feel myself stepping up out there, being a leader, being aggressive and just communicating on defense.”

Mustapha Farrakhan chipped in 9 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Farrakhan, meanwhile, showed the first in-game signs of the shooting touch heard about on the recruiting trail. Remember, Farrakhan played a total of 115 minutes a year ago as a freshman and never found his range after an early season hand injury. In fact, he made just 7 field goals all of last season and shot 18.4%. Against Shepherd, he cleanly knocked down open looks and finished 3-of-7 shooting to score 9 points. He also had 5 assists.

“He’s played pretty well. He’s played well give or take a day or two, but he’s been very consistent,” Leitao said. “Not just making shots or making plays, but just his effort and his attentiveness, especially on the defensive end. He’s done a real good job of bringing some energy and some know-how; I’m getting to see that he has a pretty good basketball IQ so he’s earned a spot in the rotation.”

It wasn’t just the wings having good outings, though. Mike Scott played a strong 22 minutes at power forward where he ripped down 14 rebounds. Scott averaged just 5.3 boards per game a year ago. He also flashed some of his offensive skills with a baseline jumper, a baby hook on the low blocks, and a solid one-handed dunk in transition.

Other frontline players that had good moments included Jamil Tucker , Jerome Meyinsse , and Assane Sene . The last man on that list may be the most intriguing and reports of the staff being high on his potential are grounded. He played 18 minutes and showed a high level of activity on both ends of the court. In other words, all those early message board theories of a redshirt are nowhere near the realm of possibility this season.

Fellow newcomer Sylven Landesberg had a mixed bag of results in his first outing in the orange and blue. He showed promising traits in terms of ball handling, offensive instincts, transition offense, and defensive spacing, but didn’t get going in the scoring column until the game was well in hand. On the afternoon, Landesberg made 3 of 9 shots and put up 13 points thanks to a 7-of-10 showing at the free-throw line. He also added 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals.

“They said this wasn’t even a big crowd, but I felt the energy out there. At first, I was a little anxious and I had some jitters. Then it all wore off and my teammates were behind me, helping me out the whole way. It was just great,” Landesberg said.

Statistics (PDF link)

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