South Carolina was an inaugural member of the ACC and these two teams first matched up in 1921. Virginia was a 44 – 9 winner in that game. This game was not nearly so happy for the Cavaliers as they were thoroughly outplayed for the second time in four games.
The English have a word for how the team performed: shambolic. We played as poorly as the word sounds. By the 16-minute mark, UVa was down 13 – 5 and had already given up a pair of three pointers and yielded two fast break baskets from turnovers. The last bucket was a +1. Just to rub it in. When was the last time a Tony Bennett team gave up 13 points in the first four minutes?
Braxton Key. Jay Bilas related that with breaks such as the one Key suffered, you are not allowed to sweat for the first 10 days. I presume that meant Key could not work out at all and that would explain his lack of match fitness vs Stony Brook. Key played 29 minutes and had probably the two highlights of the game. He also forced play a couple of times, but with the team struggling like we were, maybe he felt he had to be “the guy.”
He wasn’t. But it was another positive development milestone for Key.
Energy. We didn’t have any. The Gamecocks simply came into the JPJ and played better and harder than we did. The Hoos turned the ball over 19 times which lead to at least 14 points, 12 of them of the fast-break, slam-it-home variety. We were careless across the board – 5 players had more than two – but half of these were the result of South Carolina simply wanting the game more than we did. The box score says that we out-rebounded South Carolina on the night – 26 to 24 – but in my mind’s eye, they outrebounded us. Certainly they had bigger and better rebounds: there were at least 5 times a Gamecock was surrounded by multiple Hoos, and yet it was the Gamecock who got the board. These are “hustle” boards, and South Carolina had just about all the boards that were the result of energy and commitment.
Whither Justin McKoy? In a game that was simply screaming for energy on our part, McKoy logged zero minutes. For the second game in a row, McKoy was planted on the bench. At the postgame press conference, it was revealed that Justin has had “an illness.” For a team on the margin like UVa, the absences are starting to add up: Kody Stattmann missed 4 games, Key two, and now McKoy has missed a pair. Hopefully he’ll be able to contribute against Navy.
Mamadi Diakite had a decent game, scoring a career-high 21 points. He did most of his damage at the free-throw line, going 9 – 11, and was solid in the paint.
The Cavs got Cavalanched. After being down most of the game by double digits, the Cavaliers – on the back of a Morsell +1 three point play, and a 3 from beyond the arc – clawed their back to a 45 – 45. We’d actually made back-back threes. The JPJ was rocking, the team looked like it had turned the corner on a lazy and profligate performance, and the team was poised to squeeze the life out of the game.
Only it was the Gamecocks who administered the beatdown. Over the last 10 minutes of the game they outscored UVa 25 – 14 and administered the kind of drubbing that we give to others.
Cavalier Nation. I get it. This was an ugly game as just about the only positives I can think of were Braxton Key’s progress and Diakite’s night at the free throw line. This was dispiriting, and yet, as I traversed my little corner of UVa social media, the mood was incredibly defeatist and populated by what I can only call fair-weather fans. Everybody is losing in the college landscape. There is not currently a dominant team. At this point, I would predict four double-digit seeds reaching the Elite 8. And yet, Cavalier Nation is ready to jump off the bus and into the deep end. It’s going to be a long season, and I don’t mean that in 6-game NCAA tournament kind of way.