In each of all three of Virginia’s consecutive losses, the Cavaliers held a lead late in the second half. That was true again at McCamish Pavilion as the Cavs held a 43 – 29 lead at the 14:47 mark. Six minutes later the advantage had dwindled to 48 – 46 and it was game on. Would the Cavaliers be able to settle down and finally take care of business?
A win is a win is…. Oh hell, it was great to get the losing streak off our back. This team desperately needed the win and it was Mamadi Diakite who sealed the victory when he made both of his free throws to make it a two-possession game with 5 seconds left. Diakite was 5 – 6 from the line and this pair were probably the biggest free throws of this season. After Braxton Key (0-4) and Kihei Clark (1-4) had looked very nervous at the line, seeing a calm Diakite was a relief.
A collective brain fart. After opening that 14 point lead, the wheels came off the Virginia bus as Clark had two turnovers in a row (shades of Florida State, anyone?) and all interior movement on defense stopped as we made Georgia Tech’s Evan Cole look like an all star. Tech’s Jose Alvarado was getting into the lane at will and the Cavs countered by missing a trio of 3-point attempts. It wasn’t until Jay Huff made his first three-pointer in five games, and followed it up with a block on Tech’s subsequent possession, that order was restored.
Tomas Woldentensae. While the rest of the team was shooting 2 – 9 from deep, Woldetensae went 3 – 7, or 43%. We can win games if we can shoot better than 22% from 3, and for the second straight game Woldetensae was the only buffer we had between respectability and three-point ineptitude.
The big lineup we’ve all wanted to see. Huff and Diakite logged 66 minutes between them, combined for 34 points, 8 blocks, and 14 rebounds. The pair were engaged and executed Coach Bennett’s high hedge to perfection. They made the most important shots on the night – Huff’s three to end Tech’s run and Diakite’s free throws as the game was winding down – and despite Georgia Tech’s obvious skill attacking the paint, remained out of foul trouble.
We are a team with on a razor’s margin. Every game is going to be a struggle. At the 12:40 mark in the first half, the Cavs had forced 7 turnovers and were playing great defense, everyone was engaged, Casey Morsell had a gorgeous rebound even, Clark was playing within himself and had zero turnovers, and…. the score was 8 – 7. How can we be playing so great against a limited Georgia Tech team and still be up only by one? As I was writing this in my notebook, even commentator Jay Alter said the same thing.
Fast – break offense. Virginia is running. Key (at least twice), Kody Stattmann, Woldetensae, and Clark all ran when they had the chance. We are by no means the Runnin’ Rebels, but Bennett has obviously given the team the green light to attack in transition. More than any team in recent memory, this team needs easy points.
The bench. Or rather, the lack of one. With Bennett going big, and Key and Clark getting 39 and 40 minutes respectively, there was only one guard spot. Statts got 19 minutes and Morsell 4 minutes. It was clear even over the airwaves that Bennett wanted this game, but riding your starters so heavily is risky. I don’t want to see Morsell lofting seven threes, but the guy does need to play. Chase Coleman ought to get some minutes, if for no other reason than to spell Clark. And minute for minute, Justin McKoy has been our highest energy guy every time he’s been on the floor. If we aren’t getting some contributions from these guys, we run the risk of breaking our team.