Mike Scott fouled out with 8:35 remaining against South Florida, depleting an already thin Virginia frontline in the Hoos’ 66-49 defeat.
Against Longwood on Friday night, Virginia coach Tony Bennett was happy to get a win, but he was upset with his team’s second-half defense. The Cavaliers would face far better teams in the future, and Bennett knew that his team’s D against Longwood wouldn’t cut it.
Like many teams that Virginia will play on its schedule, South Florida is not Longwood. Like the Longwood game, Virginia played a tough defensive first half. But, like the Longwood game, Virginia became porous in the second half – particularly inside – and committed turnovers at crucial moments. Add some cold UVa shooting and South Florida opened with a 17-5 run to start the second half, propelling the Bulls to a 66-49 victory in Tampa, Fla.
“I thought in the first 15, 17 minutes, the effort was terrific, especially defensively,” Bennett said. “We got down 10 so quick in the second half, whether it was a quick shot, or a turnover, or a breakdown, and those are the things we’ve got to talk about try and sustain longer and eliminate, because you can’t do that.”
In Virginia’s opener at JPJ on Friday, the absence of Assane Sene and Jamil Tucker from Virginia’s frontcourt was apparent – in game two, it was devastating. Bennett rotated Jerome Meyinsse in and out of the line-up, but Virginia started the same small line-up as it did against Longwood with Mike Scott at center, and played with a four-guard look for much of the contest. Longwood, however, started a 6’6″ center; South Florida’s frontcourt of Augustus Gilchrist and Jarrid Famous stand at 6’10” and 6’11”, respectively. The Bulls capitalized on their significant size advantage and won the rebounding battle 35-24. Gilchrist and Famous combined for 30 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocks. In the second half, the Bulls collected 18 points in the paint; Virginia had zero.
In the opening 5:57 of the second half in particular, the Bulls simply got whatever they wanted inside. Fifteen of South Florida’s 17 points in that span came off of action in the paint – three lay-ups, a dunk, four free throws off of shooting fouls in the lane, and a 3-pointer on a feed from Gilchrist in the post. Trapping the post man, which had worked in the first half for Virginia, failed in the second – the Bulls passed out of double teams in the post for five of those 17 points. In addition, three points in the span resulted from two Virginia turnovers, one each from point guards Sammy Zeglinski and Jontel Evans . On the offensive side, UVa found some good looks, but simply couldn’t buy a bucket – two jumpers from Jeff Jones were the only Virginia points in South Florida’s opening run, as the rest of the Cavaliers shot 0-6.
“You could see it got quiet in the huddles,” Bennett said. “If a guy made a mistake, missed a shot, he had his head hung. I think they lost a little bit of their fight. You can’t allow that to happen.”
Following South Florida’s run to start the half, the Cavs were not helped by foul trouble for Mike Scott. He was hit with his fourth foul at the 14:03 mark of the second half before re-entering with 9:05 remaining. He fouled out just 30 seconds later, on a displeasing call to Bennett. Famous took the ball right at Scott, and Scott held his ground as Famous drew contact. The foul was called, and Scott exited at the 8:35 mark of the half with a line of nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes.
Without Scott, the Cavaliers simply never recovered. They cut the deficit to as small as 10 with 8:20 remaining, but South Florida quickly pushed the lead back to 17.
“I think when Mike Scott got in foul trouble – he’s a bit of a presence for us down there, or facing – I think they knew that we didn’t have a scoring punch inside,” Bennett said. “It was all perimeter-oriented, and we were getting to the lane and not finishing on some of our drives, so it became real difficult.”
The Hoos also were plagued by a poor second half from Sylven Landesberg . After being the focal point offensively on his way to 12 first-half points on 5-of-8 shooting, Landesberg went 0-6 from the field in the second half. South Florida star Dominique Jones, meanwhile, countered with 22 points on 10-18 shooting, and added four assists and seven rebounds.
Sylven Landesberg had 14 points against USF.
“They have a heck of a player in Jones,” Bennett said. “I think he showed he’s the real deal.”
When the Cavalier offense struggled, it was often the result of shooting contested perimeter jumpers – open or not, Virginia’s guards simply could not hit from the outside. Guards Zeglinski, Jones, and Mustapha Farrakhan combined to shoot a horrid 5-23 from the field in the second half. The Cavaliers shot just 2-12 from beyond the 3-point line; their first converted 3-pointer of the night came from Jones at the 16:30 mark of the second half. Overall, the Hoos shot 32.7 percent from the field, including 27.3 percent in the second half.
Though the stats don’t indicate that Virginia played much better defensively in the first half than in the second – South Florida shot 54.5 percent in the second half and 52.2 percent in the first – the Cavaliers were much more effective defensively before intermission. South Florida’s possessions took longer, the shots were more often contested, and Virginia turned the ball over just twice. Offensively, the Cavaliers were getting open looks, but again had difficulty converting, shooting just 36.7 percent from the field. Thanks to defense and offensive soundness, though, Virginia trailed by just four at the half.
Again, though, it was a sloppy second half that killed the Cavaliers. And against a team from a BCS conference, Bennett knows that his team needs 40 minutes of defense to pull out a win.
“It was better tonight – certainly this was a different kind of opponent in a different setting,” Bennett said. “Early on, I thought it was really good – it touched on what we need to be for 40 minutes. So there were steps in the right direction regarding that, but it was not sustained long enough to sustain a poor offensive night.”