Scott German: Cavs win opener
The Cavaliers were without the services of three players expected to play significant roles this season but it made little difference against the totally overmatched Bulldogs.
Senior guard Sammy Zeglinski and freshman guard Paul Jespersen and frosh forward Darion Atkins all observed the game in street clothes for the Cavaliers, but the return of senior forward Mike Scott provided a knockout punch for Virginia.
Scott, who missed all but 10 games last season due to ankle surgery, had eight points and 15 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Twelve of Scott’s rebounds came during first-half action.
“I felt like a freshman again, said Scott. “I got a bit tired before the first timeout, but after that I felt great again.”
Zeglinski sat out nursing an ankle sprain while Atkins served a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. Jespersen’s playing status this season is uncertain and may be in for a redshirt campaign.
Despite being shorthanded, Virginia led 33-18 at intermission and delivered a lethal blow to the Bulldogs in the second half’s opening seven minutes of play. SC State scored the half’s opening basket to make it 33-20 but then went on a seven-minute scoring drought that saw the Cavaliers score 24 unanswered points to put the game away at 57-20.
Virginia shot 59 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes of play and limited SC State to just 25 percent accuracy from the field.
All four walk-ons saw action in the closing minutes for the hosts, who won their 14th consecutive home opener, including all six openers in John Paul Jones Arena.
Joe Harris and KT Harrell, both sophomores, led Virginia in scoring with 13 points each. Harris tallied 11 of his points in the opening half but was limited to one basket over the final 20 minutes due to a box-and-one strategy utilized by the Bulldogs. While the defense worked in containing Harris, it left an open Harrell to bomb away from the three-point line. During the Cavs’ 24-0 onslaught, Harrell connected on a trio of shots from bonus land.
Virginia third-year coach Tony Bennett said his team answered his challenge. “Whenever you play a team you don’t know that much about, you just try to make them earn everything they get,” noted Bennett. “I thought we made them work for their shots, guarded them closely and did an overall good job in pressuring them the entire contest.”
Virginia will be home again Tuesday evening facing Winthrop. Tipoff is 7 pm.