Friday, December 09, 2005

Fordham Loss Spoils Exam Break

A last second loss to a formerly 1-6 team is bad enough, to not play another game for 10 days make it even worse. The Cavaliers are in horrible shape offensively, and with leading scorer Sean Singletary missing his first game with a hip injury, it may not be all that surprising that Virginia could not eke out the much needed victory.

"They had Sean Singletary--a great guard out." Said Fordham coach Dereck Wittenburg. "I just thought WOW. Unfortunate for them, but good for us."

Good is right, with Sean out the star of the game was Fordham's Bryan Dunston. The big man with a soft jumper was able to tear apart Soroye, Cain and Mikalauskas without much trouble. On the other side, Soroye and Lars were not able to step up their game. Jason Cain however reached a level of intensity and focus never ever reached in his career. His moments of brilliance were much longer and much stronger in these past two outings. He may be the most unlikely of candidates, but he is the biggest success story under Leitao and his drill sergeant technique.

Perhaps the biggest casualty so far has been J.R. Reynolds. The junior guard and co-captain has struggled as of late, and though it is early, it seems that things have been getting worse instead of worse. Say what you want about the game, but if Reynolds make all of his free throws, UVA does not lose that game in regulation. As a guard, you have to be expected to shoot a high percentage from the line even when you are having a bad shooting night. It seemed the harder he tried the more mistakes crept in and the more Leitao was on his case. How this relationship works out remains to be seen.

What also remains to be unseen is an offense. Singletary is a great player but his size and now his health could severely limit his opportunities to take over a game. Cain has shown he is ready to contribute but he needs to be given the ball, he can't make his own shot. Soroye and Mikalauskas remain works in progress on offense and Adrian Joseph seems to be unwilling to post up with his superior athleticism and ability. Bannister may be back but he has never been noted for his shooting. Reynolds might not like it but he has to be the guy to make this offense run. If not, Fordham will not be a fluke but a very unfortunate trend.

The road for the 3-3 Cavaliers does not get any easier, Virginia takes on Gonzaga in Spokane next. The Bulldogs are in the top 10 and look to be a Final Four contender with Adam Morrison's size and shooting ability. Virginia knows it could be a very ugly game, especially with their offense at such a lull. Coach Leitao can still make some great progress if this team can somehow compete with a top 10 team. Right now the barrier seems to be mental. The plays are there, the execution is not. Jason Cain has shown moments of breaking through, who will be the next to step up and when?

The season depends on it.


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