Earlier this week, Boston College men's basketball coach Steve Donahue conceded that his inexperienced squad would struggle to replicate Virginia Tech's smothering defensive strategy for stopping Virginia's senior forward Mike Scott. Scott proved the Eagles coach right in a big way as No. 19 Virginia blasted Boston College last night, 66-49.
Four days after the Hokies' double and triple teams held Scott to 10 points and no assists during his season-high 36 minutes - and handed Virginia its first home defeat of the season - Scott coasted against a decidedly less athletic Eagles roster. The 6-foot-8 senior finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-of-11 shooting performance from the floor and silenced any naysayers who suggested his strong scoring pace was the product of a light non-conference schedule.
Scott's "gonna have to play," coach Tony Bennett said. "At this stage of the game we have eight guys and we're going to have to ride him. We'll be as smart as we can but he'll have to play a lot."\nScott wasn't the only Cavalier redeeming himself yesterday evening after the squad's blistering loss to Virginia Tech. After shooting a combined 7-of-31 from the field during his past four games, senior guard Sammy Zeglinski tirelessly hounded the Boston College backcourt all game and finished the first half with four steals.
Zeglinski shot a pedestrian 3-of-8, but his swish of a second half three-pointer after Scott's seeing-eye pass found him cross-court snapped a personal 2-for-17 rut from beyond the arc. He added another deep three soon after and finished with eight points.
"I was just trying to find ways to impact the game; I know my shot has been pretty bad lately," Zeglinski said. "I thought defensively I did a good job of playing with a lot of effort and making things happen. When things are going badly, you have to find other ways to help."
Zeglinski's effort was critical because his fellow three-point threat, sophomore guard Joe Harris, suffered from a fever last night. Although Harris still posted eight points and five defensive rebounds, the Cavaliers needed Zeglinski to take some of the pressure and attention away from the ailing guard.
"Joe was dying," Bennet said. "He had a fever, he didn't practice the other day and he felt worse this morning. His fever spiked, and we weren't sure he was going to play."
Newly christened starter sophomore forward Akil Mitchell also helped round out a balanced offensive attack. Mitchell poured in 10 points and five rebounds by game's end, but his biggest plays came early and set a positive tone for a Cavalier team needing a shot in the arm.
With Virginia trailing 13-12, Mitchell corralled an offensive rebound off a three-point miss from Harris and sank a floater in the lane. Mitchell then laid in another two points a minute later and assisted on a Scott jumper on the following possession as the Cavaliers assumed an 18-15 advantage and never looked back.
Propelled by a 10-2 run started by Mitchell's first bucket with 9:48 before halftime, Virginia led 31-23 at the break.
"I think Akil's a really good basketball player," Donahue said. "He was really aggressive tonight, and I thought that was key."
Mike Scott drilled a jumper over 7-foot freshman center Dennis Clifford and added a quick layup to take a 42-33 lead with 13:37 remaining. Scott then hit two free throws, and with 10:29 remaining, Boston College erased Virginia's nine-point lead with an 11-2 run capped by sophomore guard Danny Rubin wide open three.
But the Cavaliers answered with their own 8-2 scoring stretch in which less-heralded scorers like freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon and freshman forward Darion Atkins made big baskets for Virginia.
Zeglinski's pair of treys stretched the lead to 60-47 with 2:27 left, and Atkins and Mitchell added consecutive crowd-pleasing dunks to cap the scoring for the Cavaliers, who held the Eagles to just five points during the final 10:29.
"Hopefully we're going to have better chemistry getting used to being without [senior center] Assane [Sene being out]," Bennett said. "I thought we were better with our chemistry today and I better feel playing the way we have to play for the majority of the year now. Every game in the ACC we have to play very well to be successful"