Virginia guard Sammy Zeglinski scored 25 points.
When Virginia and Maryland met on Jan. 27 at the John Paul Jones Arena, Sammy Zeglinski scored three points in 26 minutes and the Cavaliers posted 42 – the club’s second worst scoring output of the season. In the first half against the Terps on Saturday at the Comcast Center in College Park, Zeglinski recorded 14 points in 14 minutes and his Cavaliers went to the break with a 37-33 cushion. That’s much different than the first game where the Terps held a 5-point advantage and went on the spank Virginia with a second half beat down, outscoring the Hoos 40-21.
But not Saturday. On Maryland’s Senior Night it was the Cavalier junior guard who took the spotlight, leading his team to a huge win to snap a three-game losing streak to the Terps.
Coach Tony Bennett’s crew responded this time and bested Maryland 37-27 in the second stanza en route to a 74-60 win. The Hoos capped it off with a 9-0 run over the final 2:38, which included a 7-for-7 performance from the charity stripe to finish off the home team. With the win, Virginia’s fourth in its last five outings, the Cavaliers close out the regular season at 16-14 overall and 7-9 in ACC play.
For Bennett, who recorded his 100th career win as a head coach, as satisfying as the win over Maryland was, he took as much satisfaction in how his team won as the win itself.
“There was a high level of quality for the majority of the game,” Bennett told the Virginia Sports Network. “[Maryland] really took it to us at our place when we played them in the second half and our guys responded, they were aggressive, they handled the pressure better than the first time. We made guys work.”
Zeglinski, who missed eight games earlier in the year with an injured knee made the Maryland defense work but they were unable to contain the Cavalier guard. Zeglinski delivered in a big way, leading all scorers with 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field. The outing was highlighted by a 6-of-7 mark from behind the 3-point arc.
But the junior says the key to his success was the work of Virginia’s big men away from the ball that created a host of open looks.
“I can’t say enough how great a job our bigs did of getting us open, just working the screens all game,” he told the network’s Cory Alexander. “They’ve been really trying to get us open so most of our open looks we owe it to them.”
UVa’s Assane Sene recorded 15 points and 5 rebounds.
While Zeglinski paced the Hoos in scoring, Assane Sene also came up big and matched his career-high with 15 points and five boards. Will Sherrill contributed as well with some good work on the glass with nine rebounds to lead all players. Mustapha Farrakhan , who was held to just eight points in the first game against Maryland, added 19 for the Cavaliers.
“[Sene] had a great game,” noted Zeglinski. “He made some big defensive plays and being able to catch the ball around the rim and finish more was huge for us. He’s developed a pretty good offensive game this late in the season and we’re excited about his growth.”
Farrakhan also had high praise for his teammate, telling reporters after the game that “Sene stepped up big today and played great. He’s a warrior as far as trying to block shots and sticking his nose in there. He puts his body up for the team and he works well for us.”
Coach Bennett agreed in his postgame presser, adding praise for all three players.
“Different guys stepped up. When you have Sammy knocking down shots like that, Assane giving us 15 points and Mustapha making plays, it’s really a difference out there,” Bennett said. “I thought our defense was good enough. When we get some baskets we can be an effective team.”
Overall Virginia out-rebounded the Terrapins 32-29, including an 11-7 advantage on the offensive boards.
“We knew it was going to be a battle tonight,” Zeglinski said. “When they came into Charlottesville earlier this year they took it to us so we had something to prove today. We came out and we played them tough for 40 minutes and we were able to make some shots and our defense was our staple.”
Indeed, it was the Virginia defense that made the difference in the second half as the Hoos held Maryland to just 38% shooting after the Terps hit 52% of their shots in opening half. That helped the Cavaliers extend their halftime lead to eight in the first 45 seconds and they steadily increased their lead to 13 with just more than seven minutes remaining.
The Terps had one more run left.
“We knew it was Senior Night for Maryland so we knew it was going to be a real competitive game, we knew the crowd would be into it but we wanted to show our toughness going into the ACC Tournament,” Zeglinski said.
Bowie cut the lead to 11 with two free throws and Cliff Tucker drained a trey to bring Maryland within single digits. Jordan Williams’ jumper and a Tucker free throw drew the Terps as close as they would get at 63-58 with 5:12 left to play.
“Virginia kept its composure very well,” Williams said. “That changed the game. When we went on a run and they just kept their composure and played well. They made free throws, credit to them. They pulled it away.”
The Cavaliers now wait for their seeding and opponent for the ACC Basketball Tournament, which is set to begin this Thursday in Greensboro, N.C.