Syracuse came to the JPJ with a season on the brink and a fanbase about to erupt in full-scale panic. Virginia was coming off a tough loss to mediocre Boston College and a season hanging in the balance as well. In our first meeting, UVa held Syracuse to 34 points and 17% shooting from beyond the arc. How would the rematch turn out?
Another bad loss. The last time a Coach Bennett team lost two games back-back it was to Duke and UNC. These two losses were to Boston College and Syracuse, teams who should not even mentioned in the same breath.
As a public service, I am going to give you our “highlight” from the game. If you haven’t seen the game and were planning still on watching, I am giving you back two hours of your life. This was it.
And while I’m on the topic, where has this iteration of Jay Huff been all season? This is attacking the rim. And we need more of it.
3 point shooting. If there are any fans of Gregg Easterbrook of Tuesday Morning Quarterback fame, he used to run a feature of all of the recurring items in the column that could be completed by autofill. 3 point shooting as a negative ought to fall in this category. Again, the Cavaliers were beyond terrible from beyond the arc: 7 – 31.
Diminished expectations. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would be a lower tier ACC team this year. I thought we’d have enough scoring with a large lineup of Mamadi Diakite, Huff and Braxton Key. It’s been a while since I’ve been afraid of another team. But I am seriously dreading Wednesday’s matchup with Florida State.
Coach Bennett. As a Bennett fan-boy, I am the least likely person to criticize the coach, but with the game tied up, 31 seconds left in regulation, Virginia ball…. Bennett didn’t do anything. If ever there was a time to call a play, it would have been then. Instead, the players stood around, we whiffed and the game went into overtime as Syracuse hung 20 points on the vaunted Packline.
Now, I am a soccer player and coach, and primarily a soccer fan, and one of my favorite distinctives of soccer is that it is a player’s game. The field is too big, the coach’s box too small (and strictly enforced) and there are no subs or timeouts. The players have to play and the coach is pretty much a bystander. Basketball, on the other hand, especially college hoops, is a coach’s game. I would guess Bennett would say that he’s practiced an end-of-game play and it’s up to the players to produce. But maybe, just maybe, going over it again in the moment would have helped. Because outside of Diakite (maybe) no one looked like they even wanted the ball in those final 30 seconds.
Confidence. It is clear that the players’ confidence is shot. At least twice in the game you could see Key visibly slump as a Syracuse player scored on a three-pointer. If that is the response of the team’s best player, they all have to be reeling right now.
Kody Stattmann. After two consecutive games in which Statts recorded career highs in points, he regressed well below the mean in this game. He was called for traveling for his third straight game, he missed all four of 3-pointers and he had four turnovers. Most egregiously, he had a lane violation on a made Huff free throw. And if there is a guy on this team who can’t afford a lane violation to nullify a made free throw, it would be Huff. Bennett mixed things up a bit for this game by having Stattmann man the top of the key on offense, but the moment seemed too much for him.