The baskets were just a little bit larger on Tuesday night for both the Virginia Cavaliers and the Howard Bison. Both teams shot over 50% on the night, but the difference in Virginia's 84-63 win was Mustapha Farrakhan, who shot a perfect 11-for-11 -- including 8-for-8 from behind the arc -- before finally missing his first and only bucket of the night.
Records were tied, then broken at John Paul Jones Arena tonight. Four players had career-high performances, including the star of the night, Farrakhan, with 31 points and eight three-pointers. Farrakhan's treys also set a Virginia JPJA record, previously held by Sean Singletary at seven. Bub Evans had a career high three steals and 10 assists, also setting a Virginia JPJA record assists. Both Farrakhan and Evans are atop the ACC with their respective stats -- Farrakhan ties the ACC best triples in a game this season (along with Duke's Andre Dawkins), while Evans' ties four ACC players with 10 assists in a game. Junior Assane Sene had a career-high nine points while freshman Akil Mitchell had a career-high three steals.
Virginia shot 66.7% from the floor tonight, the best since a 67.6% performance over Virginia Tech in 1985. The Cavaliers shot 64% from behind the arc, including nine straight in the first half. Hampton Head Coach Kevin Nickelberry was left confused.
"What was it - his birthday or something?" Nickelberry asked. "I have played against Virginia many times as a head coach at Hampton for a number of years and as an assistant at Clemson - this is probably the best shooting display by a Cavalier in a long time. ... We changed up defenses four or five times and whatever defense we were in he found the gap and he made shots."
So with the win, Virginia picks up its 10th win of the season. What are the takeaway points from this?
First of all, we should be excited to see that Virginia DOES have firepower. After a couple sluggish games (to say the least), it's good to know that Virginia is capable of lighting it up.
Second, let's not forget this was against Howard, now a 2-12 team, with each of their losses being double-digit losses, and their two wins coming by a combined six points. Maybe we weren't supposed to win with quite this much flair, but we were supposed to win. By a lot.
Third, the offense is great but I'll bet Tony Bennett isn't completely satisfied with this game. While Virginia shot lights out, Howard didn't exactly struggle to make buckets either, shooting 53.3% from the field, and 47.1% from the three (8-17). Virginia gave up a lot of easy buckets -- even Howard sophomore Dadrian Collins, who averages 10.5 points per game, put up five treys on the night.
Fourth, tonight Virginia had its ninth starting lineup of the season (15 games), with Will Sherrill, Sene, Evans, Farrakhan, and KT Harrell all getting the nod. Mike Scott continues to be out indefinitely, and talks of a medical redshirt are heating up. Virginia still does not appear to have found its best combination, and I suspect we'll see a few more rotations before things get finalized.
Virginia gets into the thick of its ACC schedule this Saturday, as the Cavaliers play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels at noon. This is a huge game for Virginia and the perfect opportunity to perhaps "negate" an ugly loss against Seattle with a quality win in the only time the Cavaliers and Tar Heels meet this season. Pomeroy gives Virginia a mere 21% chance of winning, and predicts a 71-63 loss. It cannot be understated how vital this could be to setting the right momentum for a young Virginia squad.