Sylven Landesberg finished with 16 points in the loss to Stanford.
So far in the Tony Bennett era, the success doesn’t travel.
After losing its only game of the season at South Florida last week, the Virginia men’s basketball team fell to 3-2 with a neutral site loss in Cancun on Tuesday night as Stanford prevailed 57-52 in the Cancun Challenge. UVa shot just 29% following intermission after opening the second half with a field goal drought of more than 8 minutes.
“Our practice yesterday was not strong. It wasn’t focused and it showed,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. He also added later: “For some reason, we were very flat. I don’t think there’s any team or any coach that wants a team to come out and lack fire in their bellies. That’s an entry pass at this level – you have to play with so much heart. I thought we lacked some heart and some smarts and togetherness.”
Unfortunately, the offensive struggles to start the half swapped spots with defensive lapses to end the game. After taking a 47-46 lead late in the contest, the Cavaliers gave up three lay-ups between 3:30 and 5 minutes to play and turned it over twice in the same stretch. The result? The Hoos were quickly trailing 52-47. When Stanford hit a 3-pointer moments later, the deficit had grown to 8 in a game where neither team really had taken control.
Those kinds of breakdowns cost you games. They helped cost Virginia this one.
“That’s when your defense has to be at its strongest. You’ve got a lead and it’s getting later in the game and you’ve really got to come up with some tough plays,” Bennett said. “You know, it was just breakdowns. Guys over-helping and not closing out on a shooter. I thought it was unacceptable for a guy to turn the corner at that point in the game and get all the way to the front of the rim. Too many breakdowns. There was a little back screen for Landry Fields and we didn’t help and didn’t beat the screen.
“Again, it’s the little things that we need to execute,” he continued. “We still had some chances. We missed some bunnies and missed some free throws to make it very interesting [in the final two minutes] and couldn’t capitalize on those either.”
As UVa’s first-year coach pointed out, there were plenty of little things that hurt the Hoos in this one. In addition to the offensive start to the second half and the defensive breakdowns late, Virginia also came out of the gates a little sluggish and allowed Stanford to hit 6 of 8 3-pointers in the first half. That doesn’t even mention the 14-of-24 performance at the free-throw line, the untimely 13 turnovers, the 8 offensive rebounds given up (particularly early), the missed open looks early and late, or any number of other things.
All in all, it just wasn’t the kind of performance a team like Virginia can survive with a win very often.
“If you’re not solid with the little things, it will come back to haunt you,” Bennett said. “The missed free throws, the offensive rebounds, breakdowns – you’re going to end up on this end more often than not.”
Perhaps the one positive thing to take from the disappointing loss is the play of junior guard Jeff Jones . After struggling to consistently find his footing on offense in the first four games of the season, Jones took advantage of Mustapha Farrakhan ‘s first-half absence (coach’s decision) and lit things up against the Cardinal. In the first half, he poured in 14 points on 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range as he helped UVa take a 31-30 lead into halftime. In the end, Jones scored 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4 of 7 3-pointers).
Unfortunately for the Hoos, he didn’t get much help beyond Sylven Landesberg , who posted 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Beyond Jones and Landesberg, who combined for 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting, Virginia’s other players hit just 5 of 24 shots. That’s a paltry 20.8% shooting effort.
Bennett just hopes his team responds to the disappointing effort by Wednesday night’s match-up with Cleveland State in the Hoos’ final game of the Cancun Challenge.
“You come to these things to find out stuff about your team and I hope we will [respond],” Bennett said. “You can’t look inside [them]. Every guy has to be ready and bring some toughness and some execution. That battle will certainly be a test. We’ll see. We just didn’t do the job tonight.”