After ten days off and playing without their star player, the Virginia Cavaliers struggled to get things going before ultimately downing the Oregon Ducks 63-48 on Friday night at John Paul Jones Arena. Virginia head coach Tony Bennett earned his first win against a Pac-10 team since leaving Washington State for Virginia.
An early 4-0 lead for the ‘Hoos turned into an 11-4 deficit just 3 and a half minutes later. But when it was 15-6, Oregon's biggest lead of the night, Sammy Zeglinski, coming off summer surgeries, scored his first points of the season with a baseline 3. Fewer than 20 seconds later, Freshman Akil Mitchell came down with a big defensive rebound and dished it out to Zeglinski, who passed it backwards to Mustapha Farrakhan, who found nothing but net again from behind the arc. All of a sudden, the Hoos were back in the game and down only 15-12.
Virginia would not fall behind by more than three for the rest of the half, and led the entire second half.
Freshman KT Harrell had a career night, putting up nearly a third of the team's points, with 20.
"He is just getting better," Coach Bennett said. "He has certainly gotten more playing time, but he has a mean mid-range game. He did a heck of a job taking the ball to a spot and elevating to put it in. He has very good touch and you saw that on display. I'm very proud of the guys for battling and improving as the game went on."
The young Virginia team found itself in an even deeper hole on Friday night, after it was announced shortly before the game that senior Mike Scott would be out indefinitely. Scott, who was coming off his fifth consecutive double-double, the first Cavalier to do so since Ralph Sampson in 1983, underwent arthroscopic surgery on Thursday to remove a piece of cartilage in his left ankle. Senior captain Will Sherrill still remains out, and while he is moving around, there is no timetable yet established for his return.
"With foul trouble, Mike Scott being out and the occasional lineup made up of four freshmen and a sophomore, I thought ‘what is going to happen here?'" Bennett said.
Harrell led the team with 20 points, followed by Farrakhan's 17 and Zeglinski's 12. Mitchell led the team with 7 rebounds, followed by freshman Joe Harris, who, though unusually quiet with only 5 points tonight, had 6 rebounds.
After the game, Bennett said, "I tried to be real fiery throughout the whole game because like I said ‘we're all going to embrace this challenge' and I wanted them to feel the crowd. They battled. We're not perfect by any means. We don't look the best but we were scrappy and did things that, win or lose, show quality and show heart."