The No. 22 Virginia men's basketball team looks to end a two-game skid tomorrow as the squad returns to John Paul Jones Arena to face Maryland in the first of two games the teams will play against each other during the final three weeks of the regular season.
The Cavaliers (19-6, 6-5 ACC) are reeling after decisive losses in two straight conference games, first against No. 8 North Carolina last Saturday and then against a middle-of-the-pack Clemson squad three days later. Virginia had at least 12 turnovers in each of those losses.
"When you're in a game that's lower scoring, possessions really matter," coach Tony Bennett said after the Clemson game. "Whether it's a turnover on our end or we make a defensive mistake, those possessions hurt and sting. The telltale numbers are the 18 turnovers [against Clemson] ... That's 18 times we don't get a chance to get a shot."
After getting off to a 14-2 start to the season - the school's best since opening 27-1 during the Ralph Sampson era - Virginia is a mere 4-4 since losing senior center Assane Sene Jan. 19 during a 70-38 victory against Georgia Tech. While sophomore forward Akil Mitchell and freshman forward Darion Atkins have stepped up in Sene's absence, neither has the size or experience to compensate for the seven-foot center's missing presence.
Sophomore guard Joe Harris' recent injury also handicaps the squad. Harris, the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer with 12 points per game, broke a bone in his non-shooting hand during the game against North Carolina and came off the bench against Clemson to tally two points and two rebounds. Harris is arguably the team's best three-point shooter, averaging 39.6 percent from beyond the arc, and the Cavaliers struggled without him at full strength.
"We shot 50 percent [against Clemson], but our three-point shooting was poor," Bennett said. "Without Joe we're not as much of a threat from three.