Tony Bennett always preaches the importance of not allowing his team's lows to get too low nor their highs too high. While he may have succeeded in improving his players' psyches, the 2011-2012 Virginia basketball season was a roller coaster ride for Wahoo fans. We'll take a look at three horrific games from last season, then try to cheer you up by finding three better days.
Worst 3 moments of the 2011-2012 season:
UVA came into this one ranked 15th in the nation. The Hokies were 0-4 in the ACC. Obviously, Wahoo fans came into this one ready to watch a big win over a struggling rival, rub it in their faces, and then go celebrate. This was a bad time to shoot 1 of 14 from behind the arc and 14 of 22 from the free throw line. A rowdy crowd couldn't quite push the ice-cold Hoos to victory. While the Hoos would get revenge in a wild win in Blacksburg, it would've been nice to get the win at home and notch a second-straight season sweep over the Hokies.
This loss was part sadness and part anger, as the refs, along with Public Enemy #1 John Henson, handed this game to the Tar Heels. What stoof out here is all of the opportunities the Hoos passed up. The chance to beat a top-10 team, the chance to seal up an NCAA bid, the chance to win a rivalry game at home, the chance to rush the court.
UNC took an early lead, then UVA fought back, leading by as many as 6 points at 37-31. After that, the flop parade began. Mike Scott, who had a rare off-night, picked up his 4th foul and UNC evened the score, as the game went back and forth to the finish. Scott missed a go-ahead 3-pointer, and Sammy Zeglinski and Jontel Evans each missed desperation shots to tie the game.
The loss was just the start of a rough week....
This game will be burned into my mind forever as the most heartbreaking sporting event I have ever followed. After a tough loss just days earlier to UNC, players and fans alike were excited to take out their anger on Florida State. A win would lock up an NCAA Tournament bid and be the team's first real "signature" ACC victory. Importantly, it was Senior Night at JPJ, and fans' last chance to cheer on Sammy Zeglinski, Assane Sene, and Mike Scott.
The game started off poorly, as UVA went into halftime trailing big, and the Noles took an 11 point lead early in the second half. However, the Hoos went on a 15-2 run to take a lead just minutes later. UVA slowly added to its margin, aided by a blatant technical foul on Bernard James for kicking Joe Harris, who laid on the ground. With an 11 point lead and just 4:30 to play, UVA appeared tournament-bound. Unfortunately, this turn of events seemed to light a spark under Florida State, who would score 16 of the game's final 18 points, including a well-contested game-winning 3-pointer by Ian Miller with just .8 seconds left.
I have no idea how that lead vanished or how Miller's shot found the basket (I believe I went into a period of shock for the next 10 minutes), but its taking place at the conclusion of my final game as a student makes it unforgettable.
Sorry for that...but wait! It's not all bad news!
Top 3 moments of the 2011-2012 season:
This game, played right in the midst of Mike Scott-mania at UVA, did nothing to dispel the myth that he is a non-human basketball machine. Scott made all nine of the shots he took, with eight of those being mid-range jumpers, most of them well-contested. The game was basically singular proof that Mike Scott should have been ACC Player of the Year, as he scored his 19 points in just 26 minutes of very slow play. The team also had one of its best defensive performances, fans made lots of funny signs (check 'em out), and the Hoos improved to 6-3 in the ACC.
Wake Forest is not a good team, but it was how convincingly the Hoos won that was impressive - a performance on-par with the 38 points allowed against GT.
In an effort that redefined the word "gritty," the Hoos outlasted the Terps in overtime, all but guaranteeing an NCAA Tournament bid. The end of the game had that "here we go again" feel to it, as the Hoos squandered an 8 point lead with under 5 minutes to play and barely made it to OT at all, as a Terrell Stoglin buzzer-beater three just missed. In overtime, Mike Scott, who finished the game with 35 points and 11 rebounds, willed the Hoos to victory.
The boxscore from this one is almost comical. Mike Scott, Sammy Zeglinski, and Jontel Evans all played over 40 minutes in a game that was a must-win. Though some disagreed with my assessment, the win likely sealed a spot in the NCAA Tournament and locked up a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament as well. Rather than including the Selection Show on the list, I am counting this game as Virginia's NCAA berth - especially because the Selection Show, which matched UVA up against the red-hot Florida Gators, was a disaster.
Before the basketball season, I had two games circled on my calendar. Home vs. UNC (yes...this appears on the "worst 3 games" list) and this one against Michigan. Not only was it a nationally televised game at home against a top-15 team, but it was an out-of-conference matchup vital to the Hoos' NCAA Tournament hopes. Beating the Wolverines in a near-perfect game at JPJ paid huge dividends, basically single-handedly carrying the team to the Big Dance.
The first half was a back-and-forth battle, and it appeared the game would go down to the wire. After halftime, however,Tony Bennett's defense completely shut down Michigan, as the Hoos used a 15-0 run on its way to a 70-58 victory. The crowd was loud, though the arena was far from its loudest. However, a different kind of energy existed, as it seemed fans began to sense that this team was a special one.