Before Virginia's home matchup Saturday against the Ivy League's Lions, StLouHoo identified these keys:
1) Set the Mong00se loose.
2) 3-point shooting: Try and try again.
3) Get the ball security issues under control.
The Wahoos won going away, but they were a little shaky in hitting our keys and struggled a bit in the second half overall, outscoring Columbia just 29-24. No disasters, but no spectacular grades, either, for any of these areas. UVa won with a strong down low game, continued success from Jay Huff, and another awesome defensive first half. Let's get to the keys:
1) Set the Mong00se loose: Kihei Clark drew the tough defensive assignment against senior point guard Mike Smith, who came in averaging 21.3 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 43.4 percent from the field. He also had just eight turnovers in three games. After a slow start Saturday, Smith got it going and led Columbia in scoring with 16 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including a 2-of-4 effort from beyond the arc, and he finished with two assists. He did, however, have six turnovers. It wasn't a special performance, but considering Clark's work against Syracuse guards Jalen Carey and Joe Girard and JMU's Deshon Parker, it was a solid day for Smith despite the turnovers. Clark finished with 10 points, five assists, and just one turnover, a good day on offense, and I'll bump up his grade a bit for that.
2) 3-point shooting: try and try again: After back-to-back 4-for-25 outings from 3-point land to start the season (16 percent), it wasn't going to be difficult for the Cavaliers to improve in this area. And they did, but just barely, hitting 5 of 15 attempts (33.3 percent). Perhaps getting more selective was part of the strategy, plus Virginia had a big size advantage inside, so we knew the scoring would mostly come from in the paint. Clark was the day's winner, making 2 of 3. Jay Huff hadn't shot a 3 before Saturday and went 1 for 1. Mamadi Diakite went 1 for 3 for the second straight contest. Tomas Woldetensae hit the other 3 for his first Division I points -- which also happened to be the game's first bucket -- and he missed his second attempt. Casey Morsell continued to struggle on offense, and he was 0 for 3 from downtown. Braxton Key missed one 3, and Kody Stattmann was 0 for 2. Had UVa attempted 25 long-distance shots again, it's reasonable to assume seven or eight would've gone in Saturday. Still, this kind of shooting isn't what UVa is accustomed to, and the 'Hoos need to continue to trend upward.
3) Get the ball security issues under control: The Lions forced 15 turnovers per game to start the season, and Virginia hadn't turned it over fewer than 10 times in its first two outings, with 16 against Syracuse and 10 against JMU. On Saturday, UVa had nine. Two were by Diakite, and two more came from Francisco Caffaro, who got his first collegiate minutes in the second half and probably had some jitters. Clark had just one after three each against Syracuse and JMU. No one else had more than one. Woldetensae played 32 minutes and didn't have any. Still not great, but Virginia did better in this area than in either of its first two contests.