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Rock bottom

There wasn't much to be excited about last night at John Paul Jones Arena. I haven't seen a team dominate the Cavaliers like the Seminoles did. More than their first contest against Wake Forest. More than Virginia's most recent dismantling Monday night at the Comcast Center. Even more than the Cavaliers' second loss to their in-state rival, Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

The game wasn't even fun to watch, which is a shame, because, for once, the fan support was almost unconditional. The student section was full, the arena was loud (for most of the game). There was just nothing to cheer about - except the buy-one-get-one-free chicken we somehow managed.

It's almost hard to figure out where to even begin. Right from the starting lineup: Sylven Landesberg (right), Mike Scott (I'm with you), Jerome Meyinsse (standard for this season), Jeff Jones (getting creative) and Calvin Baker (right that makes ... wait, what?). I guess Tony is dealing with a team that is playing five ACC games during 11 days. No doubt that is grueling. No way the rest certain players were getting was worth the weariness this kind of a game caused. Losing like this during a closed scrimmage would be demoralizing - but late in the season, at home? Not sure there is a term for it other than "very demoralizing."

T.S. Eliot says the world ends with a whimper, not with a bang. And that's pretty much how this game went down. Rather than a mass exodus during the waning minutes of regulation I am accustomed to at JPJ, fans started to slowly trickle out at the eight-minute mark - staggering away from their seats like a punch-drunk fighter after taking one too many shots to the body in a welter-weight bout.

"I told our guys, 'I can handle losses, but the manner in which we lost - the last couple games - has been frustrating.'" Bennett said.

To recap the "last couple games," starting from when Virginia was 5-2 in the ACC:\nFeb. 6: 64-61 overtime loss to Wake Forest at home.\nFeb. 13: 61-55 loss to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.\nFeb. 15: 85-66 loss to Maryland at College Park.

And now a 69-50 loss to Florida State at home. The Cavaliers slide to 5-6 in the conference. And it doesn't get any easier, not by a long shot.

Clemson on the road.\nDuke.\nMaryland.\nYikes. It's not out of the question to start thinking 5-11, 6-10 ACC record. Virginia is now taking the concept of not closing to a much broader level.

If you are Tony Bennett or one of his players, what do you hold on to? Just about the only thing to keep you going at this point is that there is nothing to keep you going. That, in itself, might make you dig deeper. You've got nothing left to lose. You are backed into a corner. Virginia is a man on fire - flailing hardest just before its season goes down in flames.

"They call this the dog days of the season, and this is when you gotta fight," Bennett said following the game. "That was discouraging, that was a tough loss, especially after the Maryland game - and the way we lost."

Bennett referred to tonight's game as a "gut-check" game. So if tonight's game was a "gut-check"


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