For a team that's now 8-3 on the season with losses coming to No. 11 Washington, Stanford, and Coaches Poll vote-getter Wichita State, Virginia looked a lot like the 1-8 Norfolk State squad in desperate need of a signature -- or any -- win. The Cavaliers just eked out a win over the Spartans on Monday night in a 50-49 victory that required a bit of a Christmas miracle. Virginia held their third consecutive opponent under 50 points for the first time since 1948-1949.
Norfolk State regained the lead off a pair of free throws made with 23 seconds to go. Redshirt junior Sammy Zeglinski, who since returning from his injury this season, has made 83% of his points off of three-point shots, missed the three-point ball, but, with just five seconds remaining, the current ACC Rookie of the Year KT Harrell went up for the offensive rebound, drew the foul and went to the line for two.
Player of the Week or no, Harrell is still just a freshman.
Under pressure and being taunted by a Spartan that he would miss both shots, Harrell did just that. But before you could even let out a sign of disappointment, the junior center Assane Sene went up for the tip-in that gave Virginia its game-winning bucket, sending the sparse John Paul Jones Arena crowd into the biggest frenzy of the night.
Video highlight after the jump.
It was Sene's only two points of the night, but boy did they come at a good time for the 'Hoos. (Video courtesy of Cavalier Insider)
But there's no reason that the Cavaliers should have found themselves in that position to begin with. Virginia simply started off sluggish and, unlike in games like Minnesota, Virginia Tech and Oregon, the 'Hoos never really picked up speed.
"I'm thankful for the win, but we didn't deserve to get that win the way we played," Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett said after the game. "Our limitations showed. Obviously, without Mike inside, there is not a lot of scoring inside and we have to rely on our guards. But I told our guys that I can live with a loss - a win or loss isn't the big thing. When we're short handed, the way we have to play and the things that have to be constant for us just unraveled before our very eyes"
Senior Mike Scott has missed two games due to arthroscopic surgery in his left ankle, but he is no longer in a boot and on crutches, and is expected to return soon.
Mustapha Farrakhan led the team in scoring with 18 points, in the Hoos' first game since Duke this February where only one player scored in double digits. Following Farrakhan was KT Harrell with 9, then Sammy Zeglinski with 6. Assane Sene led the team in rebounds with 12, followed by freshman Akil Mitchell with 6.
"I thought we took a step back in that game," Bennett said. "We'll get to work tomorrow and try to improve."
Virginia next takes on Seattle on Wednesday, with a 7:00 p.m. scheduled tipoff time.