Sylven Landesberg posted his first career double-double with 14 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
The Virginia men’s basketball team got into the holiday spirit on Wednesday night. You know, it’s better to give than receive. The Hoos dished out 22 assists on 30 field goals and held a 3-point shooting festival to boot in one of the most efficient offensive performances in recent seasons. In the end, UVa shot 50 percent and made 11 3-pointers in an 80-54 victory.
Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said the team has talked about better ball movement and getting more player movement in the offense.
“We talked about that so it was a step in the right direction. Again, I know the competition will jump up and you want to see it against high level competition, but they did it,” Bennett said. “Whenever you see the ball shared, you have to beat good teams sharing the ball and moving bodies and guys have to obviously execute [the shots] but that was good to see. I was pleased with that, especially in the first half.”
The sharing started early for the Hoos, who compiled 14 assists on 19 first-half field goals. At the game’s conclusion, that number had grown to the aforementioned 22 assists, a high for the Bennett era. Every player that hit the floor in the first half had at least one assist except for Jerome Meyinsse .
A pair of first-half offensive sequences punctuate just how unselfish and team-oriented the play was on Wednesday.
First, Landesberg dished out back-to-back-to-back assists as the Hoos posted seven quick points. On the first play, he corralled a loose ball offensive rebound and dropped off a pass to Jontel Evans for a lay-up. On the next two assists, Landesberg drove hard toward the paint and then pitched the ball back out to shooters in rhythm; Mustapha Farrakhan knocked down a 3-pointer on one pass while Evans hit a long two on the other. Those plays pushed the Hoos’ first-half lead to 30-14.
Those three plays by Landesberg were part of a big night for the Virginia standout. He posted his first career double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds to go with 6 assists, 1 steal, and just 1 turnover. It’s safe to say that he flirted with a triple-double as several second-half passes could have led to made jumpers as well.
The Cav sophomore said he was not surprised by the double-double, but happy to accomplish the feat. More importantly, he’s adjusting to life as opposing defense’s top target.
“Definitely. This year is definitely a lot harder to get open looks,” Landesberg said. “When I penetrate and get into the lane, teams are flooding so just being able to find guys and having them knock shots down is a big relief.”
The other sequence before intermission that displayed the sharing mood was one of the best offensive possessions of the season. With 1:36 to play in the half, all five players on the floor touched the ball before an assisted lay-up gave UVa a 44-26 lead. On the possession in question, the ball started with Farrakhan in the right corner and then quickly moved to Will Sherrill on the right wing. Sherrill made a reversal pass to Jeff Jones on the left wing and Jones quickly pushed the ball to Jontel Evans in the left corner. Evans dumped a pass to Assane Sene , the fifth player to touch the ball, on the left block.
Hampton tried to double team Sene (8 points, 8 rebounds, career-high 5 blocks) at that point, but the 7-footer found Sherrill cutting down the lane for a wide-open lay-up. It’s the type of possession a coach absolutely loves. For Bennett, who has been coaxing more and more ball and player movement out of the Cavaliers, the unselfish play is pleasing.
“Early on I thought that was the most unselfish our team had been,” Bennett said. “The ball was touching the paint – guys were making the extra pass and getting rhythm shots. Then we got on the offensive glass and fell into some easy rebounds. We had one of the best halves of sharing the basketball and I think our assist-to-turnover ratio showed that in the first half when it was 14-to-2.”
The Cavaliers’ execution impressed Hampton coach Edward Joyner Jr.
Sammy Zeglinski chipped in 13 points and hit three 3-pointers.
“They took care of the ball. They took care of the ball real well,” Joyner said. “Sometimes when you do zone bigger teams, you try to force them into difficult shots. They really took their time. They knew what they were looking for and they were able to execute and get it.”
The players thought the unselfish play led to good shots while making the team tough to guard. After all, 10 players scored at least four points. Landesberg, Jones (8 points, 1 assist) and Sammy Zeglinski (13 points, 2 assists, 2 steals) told reporters afterward that the ball movement helped create good looks all night, particularly against a 2-3 zone that Hampton played for a lot of the first half.
And the Hoos took advantage of those looks. They shot 55.9% in the first half and 50% for the game while making 47.8% of their 3-point attempts. Virginia’s 11-of-23 showing from beyond the arc was not just impressive, it was balanced. After all, seven Cavaliers made a trey – Calvin Baker, Tristan Spurlock , Farrakhan, Zeglinski, Jones, Sherrill and Landesberg.
Zeglinski said that the good shooting night came off the inside-outside play created by players driving to draw the help defense into the paint.
“It’s a good night, but also because we were getting the ball in the paint, a lot of the passes were coming from the inside out,” Zeglinski said. “Whenever you can get a pass from the lane out to the 3-pointer, it’s a much more in-rhythm shot. Also, with confidence, we’re shooting the ball much better this year.”