Sans Scott: These Cavs are going to struggle

It’s time to start worrying.

“Now we’re back to square one,” UVa. coach Tony Bennett said of the health issues of senior Mike Scott, whose bad ankle kept him off the court for Virginia’s lackluster 60-47 loss to Iowa State Thursday night.

He could also have been talking about his team as a whole. The defeat was the second in a row for the ‘Hoos, who have seen an 8-3 start that included wins over Minnesota and Virginia Tech turn into an 8-5 headscratcher.

The Cavs didn’t break into double figures until the three-minute mark of the first half and entered the locker room down 24-15 mainly due to the efforts of Assane Sene, who had seven points in the opening 20 minutes after entering the game averaging 2.0 points per outing.

A 14-4 Iowa State run to open the second half gave the Cyclones (12-2) a commanding 19-point lead. Virginia would get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

It was so bad down the stretch that Bennett went a stretch with five freshmen on the floor in an effort to find some sort of spark. The froshes, in the end, lagged slightly behind the upperclassmen, shooting a combined 10-for-32 from the floor while the older guys went 10-for-30, with matching 2-for-10s by freshman Joe Harris and senior co-captain Mustapha Farrakhan providing interesting bookends.

“At times we certainly looked disjointed,” Bennett said. “Then when guys did get good looks, a couple of them weren’t even close. That definitely weighs on you when you’re not hitting them.”

The rough patch actually predates the injury to Scott suffered over the exam break. Virginia limped to a forgettable 54-44 win over Radford on Dec. 7 before taking 10 days off for exams. A now-inexplicably strong performance in a 63-48 win over Oregon on Dec. 17 was followed up by a wretched 50-49 win over Norfolk State on Dec. 20 and a 59-53 loss to Seattle, in its second year back in Division I, on Dec. 22.

Scott played 31 minutes in that game and was expected to be back in the lineup for Iowa State. Bennett said after the game that Scott “suffered a major setback” this week in practice.

“We need to keep taking a look at it and see where it’s at. It’s unfortunate. I know he’s discouraged and certainly I am, but we just have to take a good look at it, and we won’t put him in harm’s way,” Bennett said.

The hopes for a strong 2010-2011 season, just a few days ago so promising, are hinging on Scott’s ankle and his teammates’ ability to raise their level of play in the meantime.

Column by Chris Graham.

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.


The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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