UVa. men’s basketball loses in Belgium
The UVa. men’s basketball team suffered a 102-97 loss to Belgian club Gembo on Saturday night at Sporthal Luisbekelaar. The Cavaliers overcame a 10-point deficit in the final quarter, but couldn’t pull out a victory against the reigning champions of the Belgian Second Division.
The Cavaliers were led by Akil Mitchell (Charlotte, N.C.), who had a double-double with 20 points and 16 rebounds. Senior Jontel Evans (Hampton, Va.) also had a double-double, with a 14-point, 11-assist performance. Junior Joe Harris (Chelan, Wash.) added 18 points and freshman center Mike Tobey (Monroe, N.Y.) scored 19 points off the bench.
The Cavaliers had their highest scoring output of their trip, but fell to 1-2 on their tour due to Gembo’s hot shooting. The Belgians made 11 3-pointers and shot 23-26 from the free throw line, including 15-16 in the second half.
“We were a little better in the second half, handling some of their ball screens, and we were more aggressive,” said head coach Tony Bennett. “But I think this is showing all of our guys and us – and not that I’m shocked – that we have a ways to go. We really do. And for us to go against these teams – they’re not very good defensively, but they’re all very good offensively in terms of they really make you pay. If you’re a little out of position, they’ll shoot the three and they know how to do certain things. Their ability to stretch the floor and shoot the three exploits our team’s unawareness or lack of urgency. A lot of our young guys don’t understand, you got to close out with your hands high, or they’re gonna shoot it, and you’re gonna take it out of the net.”
Mitchell was strong early, scoring the Cavaliers’ first 10 points of the game. His play kept Virginia close in the early going, but Gembo’s 11 field goals gave them a 27-18 lead after a quarter.
Gembo extended its lead to 10 points (53-43) at halftime and led by that same margin (80-70) heading to the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter the Cavaliers opened with a 15-4 run to take an 85-84 lead with 5:38 remaining. However, Gembo answered with a 6-0 run to retake a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Virginia trailed by three points (99-96) and had the ball with under 20 seconds remaining. But before a game-tying 3-point attempt could be made, a turnover by stepping out-of-bounds gave possession back to Gembo, who sealed the win at the free throw line. Evans led the comeback attempt, scoring all 14 of his points in the final period.
Domien Loubry led Gembo with 30 points and Yannick Desiron added 15 points, scoring all his points in the second half.
The Cavaliers continue their European trip as they travel to France on Sunday. They conclude the trip with a pair of games against AMW Team France in Paris on Monday and Tuesday.