Auburn’s Tip Tops UVa

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Coach Tony Bennett’s team dropped a heartbreaker thanks to a late Auburn tip-in.

When you’re a team with a small margin for error, as Tony Bennett recently described his UVa men’s basketball team, then you have to do all the little things to win games. The absence of one of those little things – boxing out on every shot – cost the Cavaliers a road victory at Auburn on Monday night as Brendon Knox’s tip-in with 1.4 seconds remaining lifted the Tigers to a 68-67 win.

The missed boxout in the final seconds represented a theme in the final 10 minutes when the Hoos (4-4) gave up at least three putback buckets, including two of the highlight reel variety on tip-dunks.

“The guy took a tough shot but that was the second or third time where they crashed the glass and no one was there,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told the Virginia Sports Network. “Assane [Sene] came across and tried to block it and the thing bounced off the front and they just got a putback.”

The loss proved to be a disappointing one for the Hoos, especially since they fought back to take the lead in the final 10 seconds after trailing 66-58 with 4:20 to play in the game. Virginia pieced together a handful of stops and scored nine unanswered points to take the 67-66 lead in the final seconds.

Sammy Zeglinksi capped the closing burst with three free throws with 7.7 seconds to play. He reached the free throw line following a Bennett timeout to set up a final look. The Cavaliers couldn’t shake anyone free out of the huddle, however, so Zeglinski pulled up for a long 3-pointer, which should have been acceptable for Auburn’s defense because it was a long, contested shot. However, the Tigers’ Lucas Hargrove fouled Zeglinski on the shooting arm at the top of the release, giving the Cavalier guard three freebies. He made all three despite Auburn’s attempt to ice him with a timeout before the third attempt.

Zeglinski finished with 18 points after those free throws, joining Sylven Landesberg and Jeff Jones in double figures. Landesberg recorded 20 points, 17 before halftime, while Jones added 16 off the bench.

“I thought we were going to steal one the way we came back and Sammy banged in those free throws,” Bennett said. “We got a lift from some guys, Jeff and Jontel [Evans] particularly, that gave us great boosts. That would have been a sweet one to get but that’s not the case so we move on.”

It’s the second straight contest where the Cavaliers mounted a late comeback only to fall short. In the final minutes against Penn State one week ago, Zeglinski dumped in a barrage of 3-pointers to pull the Hoos within three points before his final attempt missed the mark. In both the PSU and Auburn games, Virginia pulled ahead in the first half only to see that lead slip away in the minutes surrounding halftime.

Once the Cavaliers faced a deficit in those two games, they did fight back in an effort to win. It’s a sign of competitiveness and the will to battle until the end, but unfortunately it hasn’t paid off in the recent outings. Bennett says the team has to keep building on the lessons it’s learning, unfortunately in losses.

“I guess it’s good they fought back. It just feels kind of empty and hollow right now when you can’t turn it into a W,” Bennett said. “Again, we’ll just keep trying to take steps in the right direction.”

Final Stats

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