Closer Look: Virginia

With just two regular season games left, many eyes in and around the Virginia basketball team were turning towards the postseason.

The Cavaliers recent success -- winning consecutive games and finally surpassing .500 -- couldn't have come at a better time, with many thinking perhaps an invitation to the NIT was a serious possibility.

The small glimmer of hope is what makes the team's loss Feb. 26 to Boston College all the more dispiriting. With the 63-44 blowout, the Cavaliers may have squandered any chance of getting into a respectable postseason tournament.

Combine that with the nature of the loss --Virginia led by as much as 9 points in the first half, and controlled the first 15 minutes of the game -- and its left the Cavaliers with more questions than answers.

"We certainly struggled offensively and we've had games like this before where we weren't able to hit the shots or have enough guys scoring, but this was one of the first games where I felt like we really got outplayed defensively," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.

Virginia's players echoed their coaches' sentiment.

"By not playing defense, we weren't giving ourselves the best chance to win it," senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said. "We were doing what we usually do, but the style of offense they played didn't allow us to get too far in the gap or help too much because of the back cuts. That style of offense is different than what most teams run."

"It's tough but you have to have a short memory," freshman guard Joe Harris said. "You have to forget about this one and move on."

-- Freshman G Joe Harris, moved into the "4" position when Virginia switched to a four guard lineup, had a career high 10 rebounds, five offensive in the team's loss Feb. 26 to Boston College.

"He has what I call a "nose for the ball," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "He goes up and grabs it with his size, being 6-6. If there is one bright spot (in the loss to Boston College) it is that he had 10 rebounds. But he has shown that pretty consistently with his minutes. He has the ability to snatch the rebounds and be quick off his feet."

-- While not much of the season still remains, the Cavaliers have found consistency in at least one thing -- their starting lineup. The Boston College game marked the seventh time in a row that the starting lineup consisted of sophomore G Jontel Evans, senior G Mustapha Farrakhan, freshman G Joe Harris, junior G Sammy Zeglinski, and junior F Assane Sene.

-- Injuries have certainly taken their toll on the Cavaliers. This season, Virginia will likely end the season with a total of 34 "man-games" lost. In the previous two seasons, Virginia lost only five man-games combined.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-7 -- The Cavaliers' shooting from the 3-point arc in the second half Feb. 26 against Boston College, a season low.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When our cold shooting and our offensive output was down, our defense didn't carry us." -- Virginia Coach Tony Bennett, on his team's loss to Boston College.

--vs. N.C. State, March 1
On Senior night, Virginia will host an N.C. State team remarkably similar to itself. At 15-13, and 5-9 in the ACC, the Wolfpack are hoping to claw their way to a postseason tournament. If the Cavaliers want to send their veterans off on a high note, they need to find a way to stop senior F Tracy Smith, who is averaging 15.6 points per game since returning from a knee injury on Jan. 1.

-- at Maryland, March 5
It'll be a border-state rematch for Virginia's regular-season finale, as the Cavaliers look to avenge the humiliation Maryland gave them at home. In their last matchup, Virginia successfully stopped Maryland's leading scorer, sophomore F Jordan Williams, but let senior G Adrian Bowie score 22 points en route to a 66-42 loss. If the Cavaliers want to end the season with a win, they'll have to find a way to hold down Williams without letting the rest of the Terrapins burn them.

FUTURES MARKET: Virginia recruit Darion Atkins, a 6-foot-8 forward from the Landon School in Bethesda, Md., played the first of what Cavalier fans hope will be many games in the John Paul Jones Arena, as his team traveled down to face Richmond powerhouse Benedictine High. Atkins had 16 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks in his team's 57-55 loss.

-- Junior C Assane Sene scored 10 points Feb. 26 against Boston College, only the third time in his career he has scored in double figures.

"He made some nice plays early," Virginia coach Tony Bennet said. "When he bobbled the one and it when in, I thought this might be his night. He hasn't scored a ton for us, but he started out well and I was hoping we could have used him more."

-- Senior F Will Sherill played just five minutes against Boston College in his second game back after re-injuring his leg Feb. 5 against Miami.

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