UVa senior Mike Scott posted 18 points and 2 assists.
On Sunday night, Virginia suffered a heartbreaking loss to arch rival Virginia Tech at John Paul Jones Arena. Several key stats stand out from the defeat. The Cavaliers shot 1-14 from beyond the arc and missed eight free throws in the contest. Perhaps the most glaring statistic of the night was the play of Sammy Zeglinski. The senior was 0-7 from the field and one of the most discussed topics among the fan base.
Fast forward four days later and a completely different story unfolded as Virginia used a big second half to top the Boston College Eagles on Thursday, 66-49. Virginia shot 50.9% on the game and was a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe.
Two separate runs propelled the Cavaliers to victory on the night. A layup by Akil Mitchell sparked an 8-0 and Virginia built a seven-point lead with five minutes to play in the first the half. Boston College climbed out of the 31-23 hole at intermission and tied the game at 44 with just more than 10 minutes to play in the second half before the Cavaliers put the Eagles away for good. Virginia outscored BC 22-5 in the final 10:12. The Hoos held Boston College to one field goal in the final six minutes of play.
“They missed a couple of shots and we played better position defense,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “They went into a mode where they had to get a quick shot and they didn’t.”
As usual, Mike Scott was the driving force of the Virginia offense. The senior shot 7-11 from the field and finished with a team-high 18 points. Scott has become a marked man this season often drawing a double team in the post. Scott realizes that he is in for a battle night in and night out.
“I know I’m going to get double or triple teamed from here on out,” Scott said. “I try t stay poised in that double team and see my teammates. If they’re not doubling me, I’m just going to go to work.”
The game marked the second straight contest where Virginia was without the services of Assane Sene , who is sidelined for six weeks with a fractured right ankle. With Sene out of the lineup and Scott getting double-teamed, Virginia will rely more than before on its remaining front court players to contribute on both ends of the floor.
That means Mitchell and Darion Atkins will see increased minutes for the remainder of the season. Both stepped up in a big way for Virginia on Thursday night. Mitchell scored a career-high 10 points and hauled in five rebounds in 22 minutes of play. He made 4 of 7 shots and both free throw attempts and added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocked shot as well. Atkins played 12 minutes and scored six points on 2-of-3 shooting and 2 of 2 free throws. He chipped in 3 rebounds and 1 steal too.
“I thought Darion and Akil were solid,” Bennett said. “Obviously they had a size advantage so Akil took advantage of that early on and made some plays in front of the rim. Darion was active. That is his greatest strength.”
While the post development of Virginia without Sene proved interesting, one intriguing storyline of the game was the matchup between Jontel Evans and Boston College freshman Jordan Daniels. Like Evans, Daniels is an under six-foot point guard who has a quick burst of speed and can push the tempo on offense. Evans got the better of the two, as the junior scored 10 points and dished out 6 assists. He also had 3 steals. Daniels played 35 minutes for the Eagles, but was held in check by Evans and only managed four points.
“He’s really quick,” Evans said. “I took it as a challenge. I respect his game and he’s going to be a good point guard in this league.”
A second plot point in the game with the Eagles was the health of Joe Harris . Harris has been battling flu-like symptoms in the days leading up to Thursday. Harris was still running temperature during the game and finished with 8 points and shot 2-3 from 3-point land. The sophomore played 26 minutes and was clearly gassed by the end of the second half.
“We had to be very mindful of Joe,” Bennett said. “He didn’t practice the other day and only practiced a little bit yesterday. He felt worse this morning and his fever spiked so we weren’t sure if he was going to play.”
With all of those twists in this ACC matchup, the play of Sammy Zeglinski still remained a hot topic after his struggles on Sunday. Perhaps the best news of the night for Virginia fans then was that Zeglinski found his shot. Zeglinski connected on a floater in the first half to score his first field goal in a week. Then after missing his first two 3-pointers on the night, Zeglinski connected on a trey with 3:24 left to play which sent the announced crowd of 9,827 to their feet. He knocked down a second triple a minute later and finished the game with 8 points.
Sammy Zeglinski made a pair of 3-pointers in the win.
Zeglinski was held to without a field goal in two of Virginia last three games. After breaking out of the slump, it appears that Zeglinski has his confidence back.
“It’s hard when you’re not contributing offensively when your team needs you to put up some points,” Zeglinski said. “It was a tough time for me but I have great teammates and great coaches to lean on and they helped me out a lot.”
Added Scott: “I wasn’t worried about Sammy and the way he was shooting. He’s a shooter and I knew he was going to get out of it.”
Virginia now enters a key stretch of the season with four of the next six games coming away from Charlottesville. It will be a quick turnaround this time as Virginia travels to NC State on Saturday night. The Wolfpack sit at 15-6 overall and 4-2 in the ACC. State has been playing much better basketball this season under first year head coach Mark Gottfried. All five Pack starters average double figures, and the Cavaliers know that they are in for a tough game in Raleigh.
“They got a lot of pros on that team if you ask me,” Evans said. “They have a lot of weapons. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Added Scott: “They’re going to be a good team to face. They’re one of the best teams in the league right now and we’re looking forward to going down there.”