Sylven Landesberg scored 24 points in the loss to the Seminoles.
Another forgettable first-half. Another deficit too large to overcome. Another loss. The story is starting to become repetitive for the Cavaliers, who dropped their fifth game (and fourth straight ACC contest) of January, this time falling to Florida State on Saturday 73-62.
Sophomore Jeff Jones summed it up: “We’ve just been saying for the last couple of games, we’ve got to stop waiting til the second half to play games. Today we wanted to go 40 minutes and we tried that but we did it again.”
Turnovers, bad shot selection, sloppy ball handling, missed lay-ups, and poor decision-making all added up to another sub-par first half for the Hoos. Up and down the line-up players struggled to find the basket throughout the first half, combining for only three first-half field goals (3-22, 13.6%) and 16 points; 10 of the Hoos’ first-half points were free throws. The 16 first-half points represent the fewest in the first half by a UVa team since Nov. 29, 1993 when the Cavs trailed Connecticut 44-15 at intermission.
The Seminoles, who entered the game allowing on average 27 points in the first half, force you to execute on the offensive end, Virginia coach Dave Leitao said, which the Cavaliers did not do.
“The few open looks that you get, you’ve got to make,” he said. “And the times that you don’t you, you’ve got to work to get balanced high-quality shots and obviously we didn’t do that. Obviously paid a heavy price for it.”
At one point in the first half, the Cavaliers went nearly 12 minutes without a field goal. Until 1:34 left in the first half when Sylven Landesberg hit the first of his back-to-back lay-ups, it looked as if the Cavs might tie the NCAA record for fewest field goals in one half. (1, Kansas State vs. Savannah State 2008).
“That was the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Calvin Baker said. “We were getting open shots, we were getting open lay-ups. And it just seemed like nothing was going for us. That’s when you have to go get the easy points, like getting to the line but that was crazy to me.”
Calvin Baker and the Cavaliers struggled to get the offense going in the first half.
The offense, which picked up a bit in the second half (14-26), was too little too late. At the very few moments when a run seemed possible, Virginia’s defense failed to make key stops. Take Jamil Tucker ‘s dunk for example, which cut the lead to 13 with 13:09 to play in the second half. On the next play, the Seminoles answered with a four-point play off a 3-pointer by Toney Douglas and a Sammy Zeglinski foul.
“That was a point in time where I thought the crowd got back in the game and the door was slightly opened up again and it closed real quick,” Leitao said. “Anytime you put yourself in a hole like and you’re trying to come back, you’ve got to play damn near perfect basketball and especially when you do something positive or two things positive, you can’t follow it up with a negative.”
Leitao attributed some of the struggles, especially the large early deficit, to the team’s youth.
“There’s that magical word of youth. It’s an easy thing for the naked eye to see the disadvantages of being young but there are so many other underlying factors that youth comes into play and part of is what you are talking about in relation to your mindset in the course of the game, particularly when things aren’t going well,” he said.
Landesberg, however, disagreed.
“We are a young team but I don’t think we should be able to use that excuse anymore,” he said. “We’re far enough into the season that we know what we have to do. I don’t like using that excuse any more. … We’ve got to start learning quicker than we are.”
So where do the Cavs go from here? What do they do now to end a six-game skid with 11 ACC games left on the schedule and a trip to Cameron Indoor and likely new No. 1 Duke looming?
“Just do the things that coach preaches every day,” Baker said. “Play hard, trust our principles, execute our offense and just keep playing as hard as we can. That’s the only thing you can do.”
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