Mamadi Diane returned to the starting line-up and finished with 7 points.
Thanks to a strong second half effort on defense, the Virginia men’s basketball team wrapped up the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 74-50 win against Brown on Tuesday night at the John Paul Jones Arena. The Cavaliers held the visitors to just 23.3% shooting after intermission to improve to 7-5 on the season.
“Not too much to say other than it’s always good to get back to winning and we have to be happy with that, understanding that you have to win a certain way and stating goals for ourselves. I thought we did some of that today, particularly in the second half on defense, where I thought we picked up the pace and wore them down a little bit more,” UVa coach Dave Leitao said. “We got a chance from there to rebound and stretch it out a little bit which we weren’t able to do in the first half.”
What changed after halftime to help the Hoos slow down the Bears? In short, the defensive rotations got better. For approximately the final 10 minutes of the first half, the Cavaliers had far too many possessions where they over-rotated in helpside defense and Brown used the extra space to knock down a number of open shots. The Cavs’ rotations left long alleys for closeouts to shooters and that often led to breakdowns on the next drive or pass with bodies scrambling out of position.
After halftime, Virginia improved the helpside positioning and that limited those mistakes in closeouts. That made it tough on Brown, who struggled for much of the second half to get the same kind of quality shots. The result was a half with just seven total field goals, including one prayer from Steve Gruber beyond halfcourt after a Cavalier deflection sent the ball bouncing with the shot clock dwindling.
Eliminating those breakdowns proved to be a key point. After the number of good shots dropped, so did the Bears’ shooting percentage. It plummeted from 52.4% in the first half to 23.3% in the second.
“We talked about it. The percentage was too high. I don’t know how much, maybe 50/50 of it, was them executing very well. They know their offense very well and they pass the ball very well. They can take advantage, especially when they spread the ball out, of any kind of breakdown. They did a pretty good job of that,” Leitao said. “They forced you to play the whole shot clock and for the most part we did that. But when we didn’t, we paid a price for it.”
Mike Scott had his fifth double-double of the season against Brown.
On the opposite end of the floor, UVa spent a large portion of the night feeding players in the post. Mike Scott, Assane Sene , John Brandenburg , and Jamil Tucker all scored on post moves around the paint after getting touches near the blocks. Sene matched his career-high with 6 points while Brandenburg hit 1 of 2 shots in 4 minutes of playing time.
As for Scott, he turned in another strong performance en route to fifth double-double of the season. He finished 15 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 1 block. Scott made 5 of 10 shots and 5 of 6 free throws. The sophomore has scored in double figures in four straight games, the longest streak of his young career.
“As the games go on, I feel like I’m getting better and better offensive-wise. Defensive-wise, I still need to get better and rebounding,” Scott said.
Of course, Scott wasn’t the only one having a fairly good night on the offensive end. Mamadi Diane , who returned to the starting line-up in place of Calvin Baker, scored 7 points for the second straight game. Sammy Zeglinski added 14 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals while Mustapha Farrakhan had 9 points. Tucker had 8.
Noticeably absent among those names? Sylven Landesberg , Virginia’s standout freshman that has scored at least 20 points in seven games this season. On Tuesday night, Landesberg finished with 4 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes; he did not make a single shot from the floor, going 0 for 6. Both the points and minutes are career lows for Landesberg; he played 28 minutes three times this season, including the game against Hampton when he had a previous low of 9 points.
Leitao, who said Landesberg “has had a head cold and hasn’t really been himself the last couple of days”, was asked if there was value to the other players having to carry the load in the final game before ACC play.
“If we can continue to do that around him,” Leitao said. “He’s going to score as he has and will continue to do but if we can get other guys jump-started where they feel better about themselves and more integrated into the offense and as a result more productive, then I think that would be ideal for us. As I said at the beginning, our plan was to have maybe five or six guys that could all be around 10 points or a little below or above to be balanced and we’re still trying to get there.”
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