Scott German: ‘Hoos survive

Virginia survived a last-second shot by Miami’s Durand Scott and escaped with a 52-51 victory in front of a crowd of 11,883 at John Paul Jones Arena in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both teams.

The Cavaliers, now 14-1, are off to their best start since Ralph Sampson patrolled the paint during the 1981-82 season.

After Virginia’s Joe Harris clanked the front of the rim of a one-and-one opportunity with 13.1 seconds remaining, Miami rebounded and had a potential game-wining shot awaiting. Miami’s Scott  penetrated the lane a took a five-foot jumper, but the shot fell short and an ensuing scramble for the ball  resulted in a tie-up as time expired.

Shades of Virginia’s two losses last season to Miami had to cross coach Tony Bennett’s mind as the final minutes of the game unfolded. The Cavaliers blew late leads against the Hurricanes last season mainly due to a horrific 18-of-42 effort from the charity stripe. The second loss coming in the opening round of the conference tournament that saw a 10-point lead with 40 seconds remaining remaining vanish.

“Every conference game is going to be a battle, and you want to try desperately to protect home court,” said Bennett, whose squad won its 12th straight game. Tonight the Cavaliers watched a nine-point lead at half (26-17) blown away by the Hurricanes.  Virginia’s defense this season has been among the nation’s elite; however, without the offensive showing of Mike Scott, who finished with 23 points, it might not had made a difference, as no other Cavalier scored  had more than six points.

“I know we did not play our best game tonight,” noted fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski. “It’s a good feeling when you can still win without playing your best.”

Bennett said hopefully the Cavaliers won’t have that many players shooting poorly at the same time. “Hopefully, we’re not going to be that cold with our other guys” in future games, said Bennett. “You look at the numbers and see the limited possessions, so with everyone off it was fortunate we had Scott to go to,” added Bennett.

Scott attempted a shot on 13 of the Cavalier’s first 21 second-half possessions. Perhaps his biggest basket was with one minute remaining that pushed Virginia’s lead to four. It was the Cavaliers’ last points of the game, and they were forced to stave off a last-second shot by Miami to preserve the win.

Miami, now 9-5 and 0-1 in league play, entered the game as the conference’s third-leading scoring team. In their last four games the Hurricanes averaged almost 88 points per game.

It took  a 34-point second half spurt by Miami to break the half-century mark. Miami connected on just 28 percent of its first half shots but warmed up significantly over the game’s final 20 minutes and finished at 42 percent for the floor. Virginia finished the game connecting on just 38 percent from the floor.

The Cavaliers will have their toughest test of the season next with a Thursday night road contest against Duke.


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