Sammy Zeglinski had 7 assists plus 3 steals and 14 points.
In a game scheduled as an expected tune-up type of contest, the Virginia men’s basketball team took care of business in dominating fashion on Saturday. The hosts dispatched visiting Longwood 86-53 at the John Paul Jones Arena as five Cavaliers had at least 8 points and the Lancers joined the under 60 club. None of UVa’s first eight opponents have cracked 60 points during the Hoos’ 7-1 start to the season. That’s the best start to a season since 2004-05.
“We just talked about how good teams don’t let down and playing Longwood is a team that is not ranked, but it was going to be a good test for us to see if we would still have the alertness and sharpness that was needed,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “I thought for the most part the guys did a good job. … . Defensively, there were some holes but guys played hard for the most part.”
As part of the winning effort, senior Mike Scott continued his stellar play with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. Scott made all six of his shot attempts including a 3-pointer. Sammy Zeglinski added 14 points, 7 assists and 3 steals, while Joe Harris had 13 points. Assane Sene had 9 points and 5 rebounds, while Darion Atkins chipped in 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. As a team, Virginia posted the second highest point total of the Bennett era (87 at Minnesota last season); UVa is 21-2 under Bennett when scoring at least 70 points.
Even with all of those strong statistical lines, it took a little while for the hosts to fully take control. The Hoos erupted out of the gates with a 14-2 lead before a lull pulled the Lancers to within 20-17 in the first half’s final seven minutes. The let-up was temporary. The Cavaliers answered Longwood’s 9-3 mini-burst with a dominant 23-5 run to end the first half with a 43-24 lead.
The decisive stretch featured excellent ball movement, strong offensive rebounding, and consistent free throw shooting. Sene started the run with a pair of freebies, Zeglinski hit a 3-pointer courtesy of a Jontel Evans ‘ drive-and-kick pass that led to a Longwood timeout, and Scott added two lay-ups and three free throws.
Harris said the Cavaliers knew they needed to pick up the intensity and execution during the latter portion of the first half.
“After that media timeout with the coaches, we just came together and talked about how we wanted to get easier baskets,” Harris said. “We knew we could get the open shots at the beginning of the shot clock, but we felt like we were getting even better shots when we worked the offense and went a little bit later in the shot clock and got the ball in the paint so that’s what we focused on.”
After Virginia took control of the game before intermission, the second half became exactly what you’d expect in mismatches of this proportion. The Hoos continued to crash the glass with aplomb. They created turnovers with their defense that led to transition baskets. They shuffled various lineups on to the floor for player and team development.
The Cavaliers also executed sets for layups and dunks against wilting resistance from Longwood. Four throw-downs highlighted the offensive action and drew the most buzz from the 8,352 in attendance. In the final three minutes, a fastbreak lob from Malcolm Brogdon led to an easy flush for Atkins.
On one play earlier, the Lancers flooded Scott on the left block with a post-to-post double team and he spotted a cutting Sene for a two-handed dunk. That proved to be part of a game-long theme – Longwood’s attempts to double Scott throughout proved costly as he finished with the aforementioned 4 assists. In the first half, doubles from the wings led to open jumpers for shooters like Zeglinski. Initially that seemed to shake the Hoos’ rhythm as they got looks more open than expected earlier in possessions.
“It’s the first time someone has come after Mike and trapped him like that. It’s almost like we call it ‘fool’s gold.’ You could get a wide open look from three right away, and I thought we were a little uncertain,” Bennett said. “Should we shoot it? Should we wait on it? I thought as the game wore on offensively, we caught our stride.”
Joe Harris threw down two dunks in the second half and tallied 13 points.
It was the other two dunks, however, that had everyone murmuring before and after the game. That’s because Joe Harris hadn’t shown such ferocity very often before Saturday. Yes, Joe Harris . On the first dunk, Zeglinski battled for a loose ball in the left corner and then threw a cross-court pass to a cutting Harris, who jammed home the ball with two hands. Moments later, Harris turned the corner on a drive and rocked the rim again with two hands.
“Joe’s rugged as a player and he’s deceptively athletic. I joked with coach Mike Curtis, our strength coach, and Joe and told Joe you owe Mike some money for allowing you to be able to thunder dunk like that in that game, which the guys that I saw were kind of smiling when he did it,” Bennett said. “Joe does have a bounce to him and a liveliness that people might not think. I think we talked about that when he first came in; he’s not just your typical zone-buster or a guy who can knock down shots, he’s lively and he rebounds and has some spring, some quick-twitch fibers in there. I think he showed that and it was good to see.”
All of that has been part of a concentrated effort for Harris to add diversity to his deft shooting touch.
“Definitely. I didn’t want to just be known or limited to one threat of shooting threes. It was one of the things I worked a lot on and worked with Coach Curtis a lot to improve my athleticism,” Harris said. “In high school, I’d have a few [dunks] here and there but not quite like that.”
Harris and Virginia will try to continue their recent success on Tuesday when George Mason visits the John Paul Jones Arena. That game tips off at 7 p.m.