UVa. escapes with narrow win over Norfolk State

Assane Sene tipped in a missed free throw with five seconds remaining to play Monday evening, and the Virginia Cavaliers survived a nightmarish effort to beat Norfolk State 50-49 here in John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia (8-3), winning for the fifth straight time, was again without the services of leading scorer and rebounder Mike Scott, who missed his second straight game after arthroscopic ankle surgery last Thursday. But unlike Friday’s win over Oregon, in which the Cavaliers shot nearly 50 percent from the floor, tonight’s game saw the homestanding Hoos shoot a woeful 33 percent from the field.

Norfolk State dropped its seventh consecutive game to fall to 1-8 on the year, but appeared to be on target for a major upset when Virginia’s KT Harrell missed two free throws with five seconds left and the Cavaliers trailing 49-48. Sene, who has made only six field goals all season, then stepped in the lane and battled with Norfolk State’s Ron Hampton for the ball, tipping in the shot. A final desperation shot by the Spartans failed, giving Virginia the win and saving both the program and the Atlantic Coast Conference from an embarrassing loss.

Mustapha Farrakhan led Virginia with 18 points while Hampton paced Norfolk State with 17.

After an absolutely brutal first half of action by both teams that saw the Cavaliers take a 22-20 lead at the break, the Spartans used a 12-3 run to take a 38-33 lead midway through the second half. Virginia pulled even at 43 on Harrell’s 10-footer with 5:30 left as both teams then embarked on a nearly four-minute scoring drought. Farrakhan’s three-pointer put the Wahoos on top at 48-47 with 1:29 left before another scoring drought came.

Down 48-47, NSU ran the clock down to 23 seconds as Hampton was fouled on a drive to the basket. Hampton, sinking both free throws, put the visitors up 49-48. Virginia took the ball down the court, and Sammy Zeglinski launched a three-pointer that rimmed out. Harrell rebounded and was fouled, sending the freshmen to the line for the two foul shots. He missed both shots, and Sene saved the day for Virginia with the tip-in.

Cavalier head coach Tony Bennett, while happy to get the win, was certainly not a loss for words in describing his team’s play.

“I told the guys the thing I was most upset with was the effort and the intensity. A loose ball here, failing to block out, I think we most definitely took a step back tonight,” critiqued Virginia’s second-year coach. “Maybe after watching the tape I might feel a bit better, but I doubt it,” added Bennett.

The Cavaliers are back in action Wednesday evening as they host Seattle at 7 p.m.

Story by Scott German



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