Shockers Send Hoos Home With Loss

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Mike Scott recorded a double-double against Wichita State.

On its third day in the EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, the Virginia men’s basketball team once again got off to a hot start as it took a 16-2 lead against Wichita State on Wednesday. That opening surge matched the early-game lead in the win against Oklahoma on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Hoos, they couldn’t sustain the scoring success, particularly during a critical second-half stretch, as the Shockers rallied for a 70-58 win.

“Obviously we got off to such a good start. I thought our guys made some shots, but defensively I thought we really stifled them and limited them to force them into some turnovers, limited them to tough shots and we cleaned up the glass,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “There were a couple of momentum swings that were important for us. We don’t have a huge margin of error and the end of that first half was a tough one. The flagrant foul or the unsportsmanlike [on Joe Harris ], I don’t know what they called that, that was a big shift. So there were some things that hurt.

“As the game wore on I thought they got some offensive rebounds against us, we missed some layups and they got stronger. We faded a little bit,” he added. “Their depth and their experience showed. It’s a good, deep team, but for stretches I thought we touched on being the way we need to be to become the best we can.”

Both teams had 20-4 runs in the first half as a competitive game materialized for the first 30 minutes of action. WSU ultimately took a 35-31 lead into intermission and it held a slim 44-43 advantage with 12:40 remaining. That’s when senior captain Will Sherrill hit a corner 3-pointer right in front of the Cavalier bench to cut the deficit to one – Mike Scott, resting on the bench at the time, stood and raised his hand before the ball was released.

Unfortunately for the Hoos, the bucket became a lonely celebration moment on the offensive end for the next 10 minutes. Over the next 10:06, the Cavaliers had just two field goals and one free throw as Wichita State whipped off a decisive 18-5 run. The only player to score from the floor during that stretch was Scott, who had a bucket out of a timeout to stop a 9-0 WSU spurt and an offensive putback when Jontel Evans made 1 of 2 free throws at the 6:11 mark. By the time Scott’s offensive rebound dunk finally got the Cavaliers on track again at 2:34, Wichita State’s lead had ballooned to 72-48.

During the critical stretch, Virginia had at least two key turnovers (WSU scored on both ensuing possessions) and two missed lay-ups. For a team still finding its way, the drought came at the wrong time and there weren’t enough defensive stops to offset the lack of offense.

“We had those scoring droughts that hurt us. We got out to such a good start, got good looks and then those droughts hurt us. That puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Bennett said.

Seniors Scott and Sherrill carried the offensive load for most of the night. Scott posted a double-double for the second consecutive night with 16 points and 10 rebounds. It is the 21st of his career. Scott also had 3 assists. Sherrill, meanwhile, added 11 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block. With two double-figure scoring nights in Maui, Sherrill now has three such games in his career. All three have come outside the continental United States (Cancun last season, twice in Maui this season).

Youngsters Evans, a sophomore, and KT Harrell, a freshman, each added 10 points for the Hoos. Harris had 9.

While placing four players in double figures in the scoring column is a good sign of the balance and unselfishness this team has showed in its first six games, Bennett, in all likelihood, is more concerned with what he’s seeing on the other end of the floor. After a fairly solid defensive outing against Oklahoma, the Cavaliers started well against Wichita State with their double-team post trap paying particularly good dividends in the early stages of the contest. Once the Shockers adjusted and forced the Hoos to either go away from the traps or make difficult-to-complete rotations, the edge started to tip toward WSU’s offense. State shot 39.3% in the first half and 45.8% in the second.

All in all after a 1-2 showing in Maui, Bennett saw some positives and some areas of concern for his team as it continues with the 2010-2011 season. The Hoos will need better Pack-Line execution and more consistent offense as the season continues. They’ll also need to develop a more stable rotation and find contributions off the bench – the Cavaliers had just 2 points from the reserves on Wednesday.

“Yes, I think [depth is] their strength. We’re not a real deep team, but we’ve got to keep looking to develop our rotation and getting a little more,” Bennett said. “I played our main five or six guys heavy minutes and they responded well, but we need to get a little more help off the bench and keep finding ways.”

Final Stats

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