Breaking Down The Losing Streak

Tony Bennett’s team is struggling to snap a six-game losing streak.

Through nine ACC games, UVa stood at 5-4 and things seemed to be set up nicely for a stretch run. Virginia was on a two-game losing streak but the Cavaliers had battled those two opponents, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, down to the wire coming up just short in both contests. Following the game in Blacksburg the Cavaliers headed to College Park to take on Maryland but the team that took the court in the Comcast Center didn’t resemble the crew that had shown so much promise during the first nine games of conference play. The switch had been flipped and UVa has proceeded to drop three more relatively uncompetitive contests since the debacle in College Park.

I’m going to do my best to explore what happened in those games, what has changed for this team in that period, what problems were factors in all four contests, and take a look at what is going on each side of the ball and what, if anything, can be done about it.

Game Capsules

Maryland: Heading into the Maryland game, I speculated in the scouting report that the Terps’ flex offense would give UVa trouble because less efficient flex sets had caused problems against both Wake Forest and Virginia Tech. Even going in thinking that it was a tough match-up for the Cavalier defense couldn’t have prepared anyone for the performance that ensued. Maryland shot 70% in the first half, the worst half of defensive basketball UVa had played since Pete Gillen’s final year in Charlottesville. The Terps were 21 of 30 from the floor, and of their nine misses only one was outside of 15 feet. Maryland very easily could have gone through the half with only a single missed shot. For comparison, when UNC put up 66 first-half points on UVa in 2005, the Heels were 21-32 from the floor, only good for 66%. When the game ended at Maryland, it was the poorest defensive efficiency rating (points per 100 possessions) UVa had posted since current assistant Ritchie McKay and his Liberty Flames took down the Cavaliers last year.

While defense was the story of the game, the offense didn’t fare much better. In conference games in which the Hoos scores an average of 1 point per possession, they are 5-0; when scoring less than 1 point per possession, the Cavaliers are 0-8. UVa was consistent at Maryland, going 11-29 from the floor in each half to shoot 37.9% for the game. The one bright spot appeared on the offensive end as Jeff Jones stepped up and played one of his best games of the season by scoring 16 points.

Florida State: Returning to Charlottesville, UVa hoped to get back on track against the Seminoles and arguably the best defense in the country. While UVa’s offensive woes were almost certain to continue, FSU’s offense provided UVa with a chance to regain some defensive momentum. But that wasn’t to be. Florida State held Sylven Landesberg to his lowest scoring output of the season, and the Cavaliers to their lowest ever output at John Paul Jones Arena. UVa shot 37.5% for the game with Jeff Jones once again providing one of the lone bright spots, finishing with 13 points.

For the defense to struggle similarly to the offense in a game with the above numbers would be quite difficult, but when you consider that Florida State has struggled to find consistent offensive production all season, the numbers don’t look any better at that end. Florida State shot 50% for the game and put up its best offensive efficiency number (112.8 points per 100 possessions) against a major conference team this season. The Seminoles pulled off the rare feat of shooting exactly 50% from the floor and 50% from 3-point range (50% from the FT line as well), which would’ve made coming away with a victory almost impossible even if the offensive production had been there.

Clemson: Heading down to Littlejohn Coliseum for a fourth game in eight days didn’t appear that it would make things any easier for the Cavaliers. Clemson came into the game 13-1 at home and was in the top 15 nationally in defensive efficiency, the Tigers’ frantic pressing style had given even strong offenses a lot of difficulty. Surprisingly, Virginia did a better job than Clemson on the offensive glass (11-5) and in second chance points (16-6), managed