Cavs hold on for win in opener
If Virginia coach Dave Leitao needed something to get his attention on his season-opener, he got it Friday night. “Obviously it was a little bit of a wakeup call,” Leitao said of the 111-103 win posted by his Sunday opponent, VMI, over national power Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Two Saturday practices and a couple of lineup changes later, and the Cavs still got all they could handle from the Keydets in a 107-97 win Sunday afternoon in the John Paul Jones Arena that wasn’t settled until the final minute.
The Cavs seemed to seize control early, leading by as many as 17 points midway through the first half before VMI cut the defict to six at 51-45 at the half. The game was nip-and-tuck the rest of the way, with the Keydets tying the score at 82 on a free throw by Chavis Holmes with 6:47 to go. Two long three-pointers by second-year guard Jeff Jones keyed a 10-2 run that opened up some breathing room for Virginia late, though the Keydets were into the game into the final moments.
“They play against you, things that you work on every day,” said Leitao, whose ‘Hoos had 16 first-half turnovers and 20 for the game despite going with a three-guard lineup most of the way. “They play you against yourself, and it was a difficult preparation for us – getting us ready to go against what we do every day, so I’m just glad that fortunately we won. We played well enough for long enough stretches and got out of the gate early, which I thought was important.”
Heralded first-year player Sylven Landesberg was quite impressive in his debut as a Cavalier, scoring 28 points while pulling down eight rebounds and dishing out eight assists. Second-year forward Mike Scott had a career night himself, scoring 26 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field and snaring a game-high 18 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive boards.
“Mike Scott was very special. Ten offensive rebounds that I think he probably turned into at least 20 points, if not more on some three-point plays,” VMI coach Duggar Baucom said.
Baucom credited first-year UVa. point guard Sammy Zeglinski for the way he handled the signature VMI full-court press, which Baucom eventually called off for a long stretch in the second half because he said Zeglinski, who had 11 points and six assists and just three turnovers in 31 minutes, “was just dicing us up.”
Baucom said afterward that he was impressed that his team was upset at the way it had played and didn’t consider the close loss any kind of moral victory. Holmes, who scored a game-high 31 points in the loss, definitely sounded that note in the locker room after the game. “We feel like if we play our game, we can compete with anybody. Just because UVa. is an ACC school, they’re no more vigorous. We just didn’t come out and play like we should have, and that is why we lost,” Holmes said.
– Story by Chris Graham
The Opener in Pictures
Sammy Zeglinski (13) is among those in the scrum for a second-half loose ball.
– Photos by Kent Iberg