The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Step right up

With less than 10 minutes to play in last night's game, Virginia was exceeding expectations. The Cavaliers were holding Jordan Williams - Maryland's do-it-all forward and the ACC's fifth leading scorer - to a measly two points. Just one problem, though - the Cavaliers managed only 32 of their own.

I'm still not sure which team I was really watching last night. Could the guys in the white jerseys really have been the same team that went 7-for-8 from deep in the first half against Georgia Tech a few days earlier? Could the Cavaliers really have just finished the game with fewer points than they totaled in Saturday's first half? No, I told myself. Surely the Cavs had accidentally traded schedules with the Albemarle High School junior varsity squad.

These Hoos are a funny bunch. One minute their shooters are hotter than Adriana Lima in a sauna, and the next they're scoring less than Rainn Wilson at a night club. The Cavaliers shot a paltry 33 percent in last night's contest, including a woeful 2-for-13 second-half three-point shooting display. They even converted just 6-of-13 from the charity stripe. My friend's sister could do better than that, and she isn't even walking yet.

With their best player hopelessly glued to his seat on the bench, the Cavaliers have been searching desperately for someone to take the torch firmly in hand on a consistent basis. Senior captain Mustapha Farrakhan is a natural choice, and there are nights when he looks like he could be Duke's go-to scorer. Against the Yellow Jackets, Mu put up 23 points, a career-high in ACC play. Some were quick to throw the rest of his teammates on his back, hoping that he could carry the team to postseason glory. All he needed to do was duplicate such performances every night. That's a tall order in this cutthroat conference, down year or not.

Farrakhan led the team in scoring again last night. This time, though, it was with eight points on 3-of-10 shooting. After a mediocre first-half performance that found his team down five points, Farrakhan knew he needed to come on strong in the final 20. Yet he took only four shots in that second half, converting just one of them. His lone bucket epitomized what the Cavaliers needed more of. Driving to the hoop midway through the half, Farrakhan had a look in his eyes that said no one was going to stop him from getting to the rim. Despite contact by the Maryland bigs, Farrakhan converted the basket, emphatically pulling the rim down in the process.

During a second half in which Virginia's shooters couldn't find a sliver of daylight, Farrakhan's tenacity on that one drive is what they needed on every play. When the shots aren't falling, the best way to vent your frustration is to attack the basket, no matter how much smaller you are than the trees in the paint. If you don't get the basket, maybe you'll get the foul or even the rebound. The Cavaliers attempted just five free throws during the second half. They should have been camping out on that free throw line.

On the other end of the floor, meanwhile, Virginia ran into a late game firing squad as the Terrapins cruised their way to 68 percent second-half shooting, finishing the game shooting 7-for-15 from three-point land. The pack-line's strategy of doubling bigs like Williams in the low post proved effective in the game's early stages, but a combination of carelessness, fatigue and bad luck led to Maryland swishes time and again from the outside late in the game. Tony Bennett's men need to find a way to close out shooters, a growing problem this season.

They also need to solve the turnover problem, an issue that hasn't killed this team during the course of this season but that certainly reared its ugly head last night. The Terps converted 17 points off Cavalier give-aways, many of which came from seasoned players like Farrakhan and Jontel Evans.

Uncertainties abound for this team, but one thing is clear - someone needs to rise to the occasion sometime soon.

"I really wish one guy would step up and get us going," Bennett said.

A game against a pitiful Wake Forest squad this weekend might be just what the doctor ordered.

Comments