Head coach Dana Altman of the Oregon Ducks
Virginia has rattled off seven straight wins by beating the Oregon Ducks 67-54 for a 9-1 start, the best for the Cavaliers since the 2003-2004 season. In all ten games this season, the Hoos have held their opponents to fewer than 60 points. This was also the Cavaliers' first true road contest of the season, as Virginia had previously left Charlottesville only for the Paradise Jam.
The first half can only be described as being just shy of a disaster for the Hoos. Despite the fact that Tony Bennett "preached the whole break and on the plane ride up here: 'You gotta get back in transition,'" according to Jontel Evans, that's exactly where the Hoos broke down, as, assisted by sloppy playmaking that led to Virginia turnovers, Oregon was simply crushing the transition game.
Virginia also got into some foul trouble in the first half, particularly with Mike Scott, who was somewhat limited in the first half due to fouls. At the end of the half, Virginia had been called for 11 fouls to Oregon's three. Regardless of whether it was some uneven whistleblowing or just sloppy play, luckily, as Evans points out, that's why there are "always two halves to a game."
"I thought our transition defense stunk in the first half," Bennett said after the game. "Then we recommitted in the second half. I said if we are going to have a chance at this game, they have to play against a set defense, which is what we work on. They are good in transition, and we had to recalibrate and get ourselves in a better situation."
The second half was much more of what Virginia fans have come to expect out of this team -- a packline defense that wears on its opponents. As VirginiaSports.com beat writer Jeff White wrote, "At some point in virtually every game this season, Virginia's opponent has wilted against the Pack Line defense that retired coaching legend Dick Bennett passed on to his son, and so it was again Sunday."
Some fun facts:
- Eight of Virginia's ten opponents so far this season have been held to their season lows when playing the Cavaliers, including Oregon.
- Mike Scott picked up his fourth double-double of the season, 28th of his career, with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
- Joe Harris has scored in double digit figures in eight of the ten games so far this season. He picked up 15 tonight.
- Oregon's halfcourt line is still obnoxious to see from the TV, but perhaps it's better in person. After the initial shock of the court and how truly heinous it looked, eventually I was neutral to it, so I would assume this doesn't really become an issue for players.
- I know Evans worked a lot on his jump shot over the summer, and I think it definitely shows. I am infinitely more comfortable this year watching Evans pop up for a quick shot than I was last year. I think his offense is coming together nicely.
- Rankings. I have to think that Virginia will be ranked this week. Alabama, Texas A&M, and Vandy all suffered losses and will likely be bumped out of the Top 25 here -- enough that there's room for the Hoos to check in low. Ken Pomeroy has the Hoos ranked No. 19 already.