The VMI men's basketball team came into last night's game in University Hall looking for a repeat performance of last year's contest, in which the Keydets stunned the Cavaliers by keeping the came close through the entire first half. Unfortunately for the Keydets, this year's Virginia team came out determined not to let that happen again and scored a 98-57 win that sent VMI packing.
"We came out focused, our antennas were up and our defense was good," Cav Coach Pete Gillen said.
VMI (2-1) jumped out to an early lead over the Cavaliers (2-0) on an Andre Quarles three-pointer, but the Cavs would soon catch fire and jump out to a 10-point lead of their own on a Keith Friel four-point play. Virginia never looked back from there.
The Cavaliers dominated in all facets of the game, outrebounding the Keydets 51-34 and forcing 30 turnovers. Virginia also showed great balance on offense with four players scoring in double figures. Chris Williams and Travis Watson led the way with 16 points each, while Adam Hall poured in 12 and Majestic Mapp added 10 off the bench.
Cav center Colin Ducharme saw limited action last night with three rebounds and zero points. The Richmond native's diminished role was a surprise, but Gillen had been impressed with Watson's play in Friday night's game against Elon and he said he thought Watson might match up better against the Keydets.
VMI "is a ratty, smaller team - sometimes you need smaller, quicker guys in there who can handle the ball," he added.
The Cavaliers controlled the game throughout the first half, but with six minutes remaining before halftime, the Virginia defensive pressure took over. The up-tempo style of defense produced a number of easy opportunities for the Cavaliers around and under the basket.
"Playing in a press style is where most of the points are going to come from - in the paint," Williams said.
The Cavaliers, who held an 89-53 lead with about five minutes remaining, got a chance to empty the bench and provide some younger players with quality minutes. Jason Rogers, a 6-foot-10 first year, made his presence felt down low in the remaining minutes blocking three shots and grabbing a steal.
"Shot blocking was my biggest thing [in high school], I believe that shot blocking is more important than scoring points," Rogers said. "It's one more thing that I can bring to the table that most guys can't."
If the Cavaliers can expect to see a defensive output like they got from Rogers and the rest of the team, they should feel a little more comfortable going up against tougher competition in the Puerto Rico Shootout, which begins Friday in San Juan.