It is basketball season, and Virginia is undefeated! Fans have waited months to finally hear those words, as evidenced by the joy heard in the raucous crowd at John Paul Jones Arena to witness Virginia's 61-41 win over James Madison in its season opener.
After going 0-3 against CAA teams last season, the Hoos have defeated the only Colonial opponent on their schedule. Coming off a tournament appearance last season, JMU graduated 3 starters and played without suspended guard Andre Nation.
Both teams showed some rust, with UVA shooting 42% (22% from behind the arc) and JMU 31%. In the 61 possession game, the Hoos held the Dukes to just .67 points per possession; the Wahoo defense wasn't always sturdy, but JMU was in no position to capitalize.
Coach Bennett didn't surprise Wahoo fans, starting Malcolm Brogdon at PG, along with Joe Harris, Justin Anderson, Anthony Gill, and Akil Mitchell. Bennett ran a 9-man rotation for the most part, with London Perrantes, Evan Nolte, Mike Tobey, and Darion Atkins all seeing the court for at least 16 minutes, while Teven Jones saw just a brief stint at point guard.
After the game, Tony Bennett told the media that the team was considering a redshirt for Devon Hall, explaining his lack of playing time.
An important sight for Wahoo fans was the play of Malcolm Brogdon, who finished with 9 points on 3 of 6 shooting, making all 3 three-pointers he took, while showing off his improved ball-handling ability. Just as Mike Scott utilized his injury redshirt to hone his jumpshot, it looks like Malcolm had similar priorities.
Joe Harris had a quiet night, managing just 5 points on 2 of 6 shooting. He deferred to his teammates for the most part, particularly the frontcourt against the overmatched JMU Dukes. Anthony Gill led the Hoos with 13 points, shooting a perfect 5 of 5, while Mike Tobey had 10. Gill, the redshirt sophomore, showed the game that Wahoo fans had hoped for; he'll be an interior force all season (and for the next 3 years).
There wasn't too much else to take away from this one. James Madison isn't the worst team on the Hoos' schedule, but they were overmatched tonight. UVA rebounded 94% of JMU misses, compared to the Dukes' 64%.
The only downsides? Leading by 20 points, Thomas Rogers missed two shots; he'll have to wait another day to notch his first career points. (Sorry to those who picked the Hoos -20).
After a far-too-long offseason, players, coaches, and fans alike all seemed thrilled to be back playing/coaching/watching basketball in Charlottesville. However, things get serious fast for Virginia, as #14 VCU visits JPJ Tuesday. The sold-out matchup features a clash of styles between the two best teams in the state...and two of the better teams in the nation. Tonight's was the first game of the season, and a few breakdowns, on both sides of the court, were not unexpected. They can't happen Tuesday when the Rams come to town.