UVA Basketball: 5 Lessons Learned from Duke Game
Virginia basketball was put under the microscope before a national audience on ESPN.
The Cavaliers, who have flown under the radar with the longest winning streak since the Ralph Sampson era saw it snapped against the Duke Blue Devils 61-58 in Cameron Indoor.
The game was not always pretty, but it was a great game to watch.
Virginia's defense gave the Blue Devils fits, but their own offensive ineptitude did them in and dropped them to 14-2 on the year and 1-1 in the ACC.
No one really knew how the Cavaliers would fare in this house of horrors and although they did some things right, they still went home with a predictable loss.
So what do we take away from this performance?
How does this game project Virginia for the rest of the season?
Let's find out.
Mike Scott Can Handle Pressure
For five years, Mike Scott has been on the Virginia Cavalier roster.
Yet, in those five years, Scott has played in one postseason (the CBI).
Scott has developed into a first team All-ACC player and is clearly the star of the Virginia team. However, he had not played a team like Duke this season and many wondered if he could handle shouldering the load game in and game out.
Earlier this week, Jason King wrote an article describing Wooden Player of the Year candidates. For whatever reason, Virginia fans attacked the comment section making Scott the next Chuck Norris.
Before the game Scott read them, he even commented on Twitter about it.
He was able to cash the check the boisterous fans wrote for him with needless smack. Scott backed up his 23-point performance against Miami with another 23 points and nine rebounds in Cameron Indoor.
Scott's mid-range game makes him a special college player. Despite Duke's size, Scott was able to get his shot off and continue to carry the load offensively.
Everyone knew where the ball was going and the senior responded with clutch shots.
Scott has proven that he can step up in the moment. Being able to shine in the spotlight is a rare characteristic, but a vital one towards this team's success.
Sammy Zeglinski's Performance Will Be Hard to Recover from
While one of Virginia's fifth-year seniors was stepping up for the Cavaliers, the other one seemed nowhere to be found.
Senior guard Sammy Zeglinski went 0-for-8 from the floor, 0-for-5 from behind the arc. Twice in the final two minutes, Zeglinski missed critical shots that could have changed the entire complexion of the game.
First, he missed a lay-up after Mike Scott found him open, driving towards the lane.
Then, he missed a transition three-pointer that would have made it a one-possession game with more than a minute to go.
Both were shots Zeglinski has made numerous times throughout his collegiate career. Zeglinski is sixth all-time in career three-pointers and is the third-leading scorer on the team.
Yet, despite all the dagger three pointers he has hit in the past, he could not connect in the biggest Cavalier game in years.
The last time Zeglinski went for 0 points in a game was Jan. 2, 2011 against LSU.
While one can shrug this off as one poor performance, letting a team down like this can haunt a player.
Zeglinski can go one of two ways with this performance. Of course, he can bounce back, but it will take time for his wounds to heal mentally and physically.
Assane Sene's Days as a Starter May Be Numbered
Assane Sene has been a Cavalier starter from almost day one in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Yet, Sene may not finish his career as a starter for the orange and blue.
Sene has always had a ceiling towards his potential. Sure, he has great height at 7'0", but his hands are well below average and his mediocre athleticism leads to some awkward moves and fouls.
Sene is also not a particularly big body that can bang around with the premiere front courts in the ACC.
Indeed, Sene leads the team in fouls and got burned a few times last night to the frustration of fans.
Akil Mitchell is by no means a perfect replacement. The sophomore is not nearly as tall, but is a stellar athlete. His leaping ability and his energy were on full display with perhaps his best overall performance to date, with six points and six rebounds in 15 minutes.
Sene had six points and four rebounds in 23 minutes.
Mitchell may not have the ability to block shots like Sene, he too was caught out of position and made fouls. However, his potential reminds one of a former Cavalier Adam Hall. Both have athleticism and big play ability.
Sene has been an anchor for Virginia over the years. When Mike Scott went down last season, Sene stepped up his game to a level no one thought possible.
Yet, Mitchell and true freshman Darion Atkins will continue to eat away at his minutes as the season continues and they progress.
Will a starting spot be next?
Virginia Can Play with the ACC Elite
No one knew how Virginia basketball would handle this contest.
Even in 2000-01, when Virginia earned a five-seed in the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers were smacked down 103-61 at Cameron Indoor.
The Cavaliers had lost 14-straight at Duke and, although that streak continues, Virginia more than held their own.
The fact is that Virginia staked a claim to be the third best team in the ACC.
Considering that their nearest rivals like Virginia Tech and Florida State are a combined 1-3 at the moment in conference certainly helps. Even Clemson surprisingly fell to Boston College in Chestnut Hill.
Virginia has suffered from a severe case of playing to the level of their competition. They beat Michigan and earned a signature victory. They also barely survived a Towson team that had lost 32-straight games.
Every Cavalier fan had seen the floor of their potential, now everyone got to the ceiling. That ceiling proved to be higher than nearly anyone imagined.
Even Dick Vitale, a.k.a. Dukie V, was waxing poetic about coach Tony Bennett and the tenacious Cavaliers. He even gave a random shout out to the Cavalier tennis and baseball programs.
If Virginia can earn the respect of the media as they have done so far, this could be proof that the Cavaliers are turning a corner.
Not only are they building success for now, but also for the future. Virginia is definitely not an elite ACC team, yet, but they are close.
Moral Victories Don't Get You into the Big Dance
Virginia fans are patting themselves on the back because of their close loss to Duke, but we all know that a loss is a loss.
All those good feelings of hope and anticipation will fade away in an instant if the Cavaliers drop the ball and lose at Georgia Tech next weekend.
We all know that you are what your record is.
Sure, everyone thought Virginia was a paper tiger at 14-1. Now that they proved to have some bite, they cannot become arrogant or brash in the rest of the mediocre ACC.
Every victory will be critical this season, especially for a team that has not been to the NCAA tournament since 2007 or played in any postseason tournament since 2008.
The Cavaliers are still learning how to win and Thursday night proved just that.
A lay-up here, a rebound there and a few bounces could have made all the difference. Virginia outplayed Duke, but the Blue Devils know how to win. Their pedigree is one of excellence, the Cavaliers have been anything but for years.
Virginia fans have had too many cases of "would have, could have". They have seen plenty of let down games throughout the years.
The Cavaliers have a formula to build success and the talent to do it but Virginia needs real victories, not moral ones.
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