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Quiet, all too quiet

He's done it before. The game-tying basket with 13.4 seconds left in regulation in last season's home game against then-No. 12 Clemson. And the six points in overtime that secured the upset for Virginia.

But as the frustration protruded from Sylven Landesberg's face with his hands pressed against his head, it was clear that the sophomore guard was not going to stave off defeat Monday night against Penn State. In the final three and a half minutes, with Virginia facing a double-digit deficit, four Landesberg free throws clanked off the rim, including two crucial misses with 1:46 remaining. Two layups rimmed out. He did bank in a three-pointer to trim the Nittany Lion lead to seven, but I'm sure the Flushing, N.Y. native would be the first to tell you the shot would have been met by more amused chuckles than praise on his home court.

I don't mean to pin the Cavaliers' 69-66 loss on Landesberg. That distinction belongs to Virginia's defensive collapse in the first four minutes in the second half, courtesy junior guard Talor Battle's penetration to the basket, which led to easy layups and uncontested jump shots. The lapses resulted in a 27-7 Penn State run from which the Cavaliers could not fully recover.

But you can't overlook the fact that on a night in which Penn State's star player scored 32 points - tying the record for the most by an opposing player at John Paul Jones Arena - and hit five huge three's down the stretch, Landesberg looked like just another spectator.

Battle "wants the ball - he's won so many games for us in the last minute of the game," Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. "There's nobody else I'd rather have taking the last shot than him."

For Virginia, the same should be said of Landesberg.

"It'd be nice to just be able to put the ball in a guy's hands and get it done, but ... I think Sylven has the ability with his chances to get in the lane but some of his shots weren't dropping tonight," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. "I don't know if we have to develop that, or kinda share the load. But when the defense slides like that, it's too much pressure."

Yes, he scored a team-high 18 points. But in the critical stretches of the game, he was mostly absent. As Penn State reversed a 10-point first half deficit into a double-digit lead with 12:18 left in the game, the 2008-09 ACC Rookie of the Year should have tried to stop the bleeding. During the next nine minutes of play, Landesberg attempted only two shots, missing both. It's one thing to miss a few jumpers - it's quite another to let that rattle you and lose your aggressiveness altogether.

Landesberg's performance can partly be attributed to the delicate balance he must strike between being "The Guy" when the game is on the line and incorporating his teammates into the offense. After all, that's part of the natural development of any great player.

But during that nine-minute stretch and for most of the second half, his teammates did not respond. Junior forward Mike Scott's perfect 6-for-6 shooting clinic during the first period did not carry over into the second half. Senior guard Calvin Baker penetrated into the lane at times, but he couldn't connect. The team as a whole shot an abysmal 36.1 percent in the second half.

In other words, Landesberg needed to take over.

Sophomore guard Sammy Zeglinski's four treys late in the game were certainly encouraging. And had the officials' eyes not been doused in a solution of olive oil, gasoline, and liquid morphine before the game, freshman guard Jontel Evans may have saved the day defensively for the Cavaliers.

"What I told the guys after, 'Gut wrenching loss,' but they fought, they scrapped, they didn't quit," Bennett said. "You gotta just keep building, and when you see something like that, you say, 'That's a step forward in that area,' instead of just letting it slide."

For Virginia to be competitive in the ACC this year, Landesberg will have to be the one fighting and scrapping 'til the end.


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