Sunday, January 01, 2006

Cavs Survive Hartford

It wasn't going to be an easy year for Virginia basketball, and this past week proved it. Two American East conference teams played Virginia, and both gave the Cavaliers more than they bargained for. Nevertheless, the Cavs were able to end 2005 on a high note and a winning record of 6-4 after defeating the Hartford Hawks 71-62. The reason for this narrow victory is obvious, and one that seems to be an ominous sign as ACC play looms: Rebounding. The same fatal flaw which crippled Pete Gillen ball clubs, stifled Virginia's efforts for a blowout as errant Hawk shots continued to fall into the arms of Hartford players. While Virginia only lost the rebounding war 40-35, the Hawks had 28 offensive rebounds compared to the Cavaliers 9. No matter how big the talent gap, most teams will take advantage of extra opportunities, and Hartford was no exception. C Kenny Adeleke was the main beneficiary of all these extra chances with 21 points along with 15 boards. The second ominous sign was just how fragile the front court is for Virginia, at the end of the game Tunji Soroye, Jason Cain and Lars Mikalauskas all fouled out. If Adeleke could send Virginia's big men to the pine, imagine what the likes of Wake Forest's Eric Williams and Duke's Shelden Williams could do.

Virginia did show signs of promise yet again. This game was led by star PG Sean Singletary. After a so-so 7-point performance against UMBC, Singletary responded with a 22 point outing on 6-14 shooting along with 7 assists. Fellow co-captain J.R. Reynolds registered 13 points and sophomore Adrian Joseph hot three-point shooting continued going 3-5 from beyond the arc and picking up 15 points. As for Jason Cain, with his foul trouble he was only able to pick up 7 points and a disappointing four rebounds in 19 minutes.

Perhaps one interesting new feature for the Cavaliers is walk-on Drew Shiembob. "Shiembob Shaq" was forced into the limelight with all the foul trouble for the front court and was much better than anticipated. A key offensive rebound was kicked out to Singletary for a big three. In the UMBC game he registered a dunk that is one rare sight in UVA basketball. He may not be Sampson, but if today's game is any indication, Shiembob may be called upon more often then we once thought, and he will need to be as solid then as he was in today's game. In other words, he has to be more than a stat line because 4 points an 2 rebounds does not fully describe the impact a walk-on has on a team.

The Cavaliers end the 2005 year with a 6-4 record, but with little time to enjoy the New Year celebration because the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers are on the horizon. Last year the Cavaliers eked out a double overtime victory over the pesky WKU squad. This Monday they will have to try and keep their win streak alive on the road. Not an easy task, but not impossible either. Time will tell if 2006 will end up being better than 2005.


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