TCU Topples UVa In Paradise Jam

Coach Tony Bennett’s team lost its first game of the season.

There’s something about November tournament openers away from Charlottesville that doesn’t suit the Virginia men’s basketball team. For the third straight season, after all, the Cavaliers dropped the first tourney game away from home.

In the 2009-2010 season, Stanford dealt a 57-52 loss to UVa in Cancun (Cancun Challenge). Last season, Washington waxed the Cavaliers 106-63 at the Maui Invitational. Texas Christian became the latest team to topple the Hoos in this format as it squeezed out a 57-55 win Friday in the Paradise Jam.

The Cavaliers made a furious rally in the final 20 seconds that included a pair of 3-pointers from Jontel Evans and Joe Harris , an inbounds steal, and a 3-point attempt, but they couldn’t pull off a miracle last-minute comeback.

“We dug the hole before that,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Network broadcast. “It was obviously a struggle to put the ball in the hole whether it was layups, free throws, open looks, a travel when we had a chance to cut the lead just off a rhythm shot. Those are things that you’ve got to try to play through and get better at.”

Indeed, the Cavaliers struggled throughout on the offensive side of the ball. They stumbled through the first half when they came up with more turnovers than made shots. At one point in the first half, Virginia had turnovers on four consecutive possessions.

While the second half was better, it still featured many issues with the little things like defensive breakdowns late in the shot clock, more missed shots, and a missed boxout on a critical free throw late in the contest. For the game, the Hoos made just 37.5% of their shots and just 6 of 15 3-pointers. Along the way, Virginia missed some open jumpers, putback opportunities, and short shots in the paint. The Cavaliers lost the rebounding battle 27-25 and committed 19 turnovers as well.

Plus, just days after setting a new program record for the most free throws made in a perfect game at the line with a 19-of-19 outing against Winthrop on Tuesday, UVa missed 10 free throws against TCU. For the game, Virginia made 19 of 29 freebies, but several of the misses came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.

“We left a lot on the table. Free throws, missed layups, rhythm shots that you just can’t afford to do,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Network broadcast. “Certainly [when] you get in close games it comes down to key little plays, getting that big rebound, knocking down free throws, taking care of the ball , and we didn’t cash in certainly at the line.”

Senior forward Mike Scott led the Cavaliers with 13 points and 8 rebounds, much of which came in the second half. He added 3 steals and 2 assists. Harris also had 13 points and chipped in 6 rebounds and 3 assists as well. KT Harrell posted 9 points, while Malcolm Brogdon and Sammy Zeglinski, playing his first game of the season after sitting out the first two recovering from an ankle injury, each had 6 points.

“It’s got to be a collective [effort]. We’re not a team that can just say ‘hey you, put us on your back and win us the game.’ We need everybody stepping up,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Network broadcast. “In the first half, we went through that little scoring drought even though we had good shots. Again, we started getting our head down a little bit and I thought that affected us on the defensive end.”

The Hoos have little time to dwell on the loss. They face Drexel on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

“The thing about these tournaments is you’re playing three games in a short amount of time so you don’t have time to hang your head. You’ve got to compete,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Network broadcast. “We play a very good Drexel team that’s getting votes in the top 25. Very physical. … They’re going to come back with a vengeance and we’ve got to meet that and hopefully take a step in the right direction. It’s a situation where the turn-around is quick and we’ve got to battle like crazy.”

Final Stats