Home #4 Virginia lays another egg on the road: Now it’s time to worry

#4 Virginia lays another egg on the road: Now it’s time to worry


virginia basketballThe last six days will define the 2015-2016 Virginia basketball season. Either Tony Bennett and crew get things figured out after back-to-back losses on the road against second-division ACC teams, or this one goes down the drain quickly.

Monday at Virginia Tech, it was the inability to defend the pick-and-roll. Saturday at Georgia Tech, it was the inability to keep the Yellow Jackets off the offensive boards.

Four of Georgia Tech’s first five second-half buckets were second-chance buckets. Which is significant because after Virginia fought all the way back from an early 15-point deficit to tie the game at 49 with 6:08 to go on a Marial Shayok three, that was eight of the Jackets’ 14 second-half points to that stage.

Then the frustrations shifted from not being able to protect the glass to not being able to break the lid off the basket on the other end. After that Shayok three, UVA missed its next seven shots from the floor as Georgia Tech went on an 11-0 run to break the game open.

The ‘Hoos wouldn’t connect again from the floor until a Mike Tobey three with 43 seconds left.

The final score looked a lot better than the final minutes played out with Virginia scoring 13 points in the final 43 seconds.

It’s a bit of a testament to the fight in the team that it was down 11 at Virginia Tech Monday night and had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the final seconds, and was down double digits most of the day on Saturday before coming back to tie it, then get down double digits again before forcing Georgia Tech to close it out at the line.

That said, losses by two and four at the ACC’s two Techs are just not acceptable for this team, not with everybody healthy, and not with the battle-testing that Bennett put his guys through in November and December, with games against the likes of Ohio State, West Virginia, Villanova and Cal in the walkup to conference play.

Where this goes from here is something that those of you reading this column a few months after it was written, with the coaches and players just now getting interviewed by the writers, already know.

For the rest of us, there are any number of ways it can play out. One example that comes to mind is how Duke responded to a pair of double-digit losses early in conference play last year before rallying to win at UVA, then making a long run that ended with another national title.

The other extreme is familiar to long-time Virginia fans. Remember that 2001-2002 team that started 14-2 with a Top 5 ranking? Those ‘Hoos lost back-to-back games to Duke and Maryland, that Maryland game a historic collapse, blowing an eight-point lead in the final three minutes, and didn’t even make it to the NCAA Tournament.

It’s not going to be that bad, but you have to bring it up because somehow Monday wasn’t the wakeup call that it needed to be, with the Cavs coming out as flat as a pancake, trailing by as many as 15 in the first half.

This team is so cool that it almost hurts itself with how confident it can be in its ability to claw back out of deep holes.

Last two times out, the steady climb ended a few feet short of getting out of the hole.

With Miami coming to town Tuesday night, another flat start is going to translate into 1-3 in the ACC.

You want to be 2015 Duke, or the 2002 Cavs?

– Column by Chris Graham



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