With a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals on the line, the No. 2 seeded Virginia Cavaliers weren't able to finish against the Delaware Blue Hens on Tuesday night, falling 59-53. The Hoos were the only Preseason NIT host who failed to make the trip to New York. Eighth-seeded Delaware is joined by No. 1 seed Michigan, No. 3 Kansas State and No. 4 Pittsburgh.
Down by as many as 18 early in the second half, the Hoos mounted an impressive comeback to regain the lead with a one point advantage. But without an experienced point guard and the key to Virginia's defense, the Blue Hens would pull out the win.
BUB-ble Team: All-ACC Defense Jontel Evans made his season debut on Tuesday night, but with the doctors limiting his playing time, and his efficiency clearly not where it was last year, Evans played for only three minutes. His foot seemed to prevent him from making the cut routes that fans are used to seeing from him. He would finish with two turnovers, no assists and no steals. Without Bub on the court, Virginia seemed a little haphazard on offense and unrefined on defense.
Whatever Sticks: When things weren't going right, you could tell Tony Bennett was throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, where the wall is the point guard position and "everything" is "everyone." Seeing time at the point last night were junior Joe Harris, freshman Justin Anderson, and senior walk-on Doug Browman. None of them proved particularly successful. Freshman Taylor Barnette played at the two, even though he had started at point for the two games prior.
Akil-ler Support: There's no doubt at all that Joe Harris is this year's Mike Scott, in that the Cavaliers will be reliant on him to do the bulk of the scoring. Harris, fouling out in the final seconds, finished the game with 20 points and four rebounds, but shot just 3-9 from three point land (which is better than Evan Nolte's 1-5 or Paul Jesperson's 0-3, but still not quite at Joe Harris's threemendous caliber (yes, I'll be saying that all season)). But where Harris was unable to produce, Akil Mitchell really became the heart and soul of the team. Mitchell earned a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs for him. A lot will be on his shoulders this year to carry the team during Harris's off-shooting nights...or in last night's case, the rest of the team's off-shooting nights.
Shooting [with the] lights out: Scoring was a common problem for the Hoos to get points last year...which is not really a problem you want to have when it comes to college basketball. But stout defense kept Virginia in most games and carried the Cavaliers into the NCAA tournament. Last night, without the help of Evans, Virginia really needed strong offensive firepower to get in the game, but it seemed at times that the Hoos were just blindly throwing up shots. They would finish shooting just 35.1% from the field and 19.0% from beyond the three point line (4-21, with three of them coming from Joe Harris). UVA put up only 15 points in the first half, shooting 22% from the floor, including 0-9 from the three.
UVA will play host to Seattle this Saturday at 4:00. The Hoos struggled against the Redhawks last year on the road, and needed 33 points from Mike Scott to stave off a late rally. Virginia will also host a pair of consolation Preseason NIT games next week.