Cavs go cold vs. Heels

Cold shoot­ing, cau­tious play as­sure home loss to North Carolina

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY STEVE YANDA yan­das@wash­post.com

Vir­ginia shoots 26.1 per­cent in the sec­ond half, los­ing an 11-point lead in a 62-56 loss to North Carolina.

char­lottesville — In ret­ro­spect, Vir­ginia Coach Tony Ben­nett could have drawn up the last-minute play for any of his three shoot­ing guards. None, he noted fol­low­ing the Cava­liers’ 6256 loss Satur­day to North Carolina, was too ter­ri­bly ac­cu­rate dur­ing the sec­ond half.

But rather than choose se­nior guard Mustapha Far­rakhan or fresh­man guard K.T. Har­rell — the team’s top two (healthy) lead­ing scor­ers — to take the shot fol­low­ing a time­out with 28.8 sec­onds to play and Vir­ginia trail­ing by two points, the first op­tion of the play Ben­nett de­signed was to find fresh­man guard JoeHar­ris.

En­ter­ing the day, Har­ris had shot 42.2 per­cent from three­p­oint range. Just four days ear­lier, he had made 5 of 6 shots from be­yond the arc in a win over Howard. As theCava­liers (10-6, 1-1 ACC) broke from their hud­dle ex­it­ing the time­out, ju­nior guard Sammy Zeglin­ski pat­ted Har­ris twice on the chest, a muted vote of con­fi­dence.

Har­ris “ has got a real quick re­lease,” Ben­nett said. “ That’s ac­tu­ally why I called it for him. I thought he could get it off.”

That Vir­ginia faced a deficit then was an in­dict­ment of the Cava­liers’ of­fen­sive con­sis­tency. Vir­ginia shot 53.6 per­cent in the first half and 26.1 per­cent in the sec­ond half. Se­nior for­ward Will Sher­rill said the Tar Heels did a bet­ter job af­ter the in­ter­mis­sion of dis­rupt­ing Vir­ginia’s pass­ing lanes and deny­ing wing rev­er­sals.

But­more­cru­cially, Sher­rill noted, the Cava­liers grew stag­nant. Har­ris said they grew less ag­gres­sive. Far­rakhan said they weren’t them­selves.

What­ever tran­spired, it con­trib­uted to Vir­ginia fum­bling away an 11-point lead. De­fen­sively, the Cava­liers made the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments against a North Carolina squad that en­tered the game av­er­ag­ing 75.3 pos­ses­sions per con­test. There were 64 pos­ses­sions in Satur­day’s game.

It took the TarHeels 11 min­utes 7 sec­onds to tally their first 26 points. They scored 36 points the rest of the game. As the con­test pro­gressed, its pace in­creas­ingly fa­vored Vir­ginia.

“When we got all those stops con­sec­u­tively in the sec­ond half we could not cap­i­tal­ize of­fen­sively,” Ben­nett said.

With se­nior for­wardMike Scott out with an an­kle in­jury, the Cava­liers’ front-court ro­ta­tion­waslim­ited to four play­ers, three of which played with foul trou­ble through­out the sec­ond half. North Carolina (11-4, 1-0) made 17 of 22 free throws in the sec­ond half and slowly crept back into con­tention.

Fresh­man for­ward Akil Mitchell fouled out of the game with 2:27 re­main­ing, andNorth Carolina for­ward Justin Knox made both en­su­ing free throws to pro­vide the Tar Heels a two-point lead. North­Carolina at­tempted 27 free throws Satur­day; Vir­ginia at­tempted 12.

“We usu­ally don’t get a lot of re­spect from the of­fi­cials any­way, just be­ing Vir­ginia,” Sher­rill said. “Against more es­tab­lished teams like Duke and Carolina, they usu­ally get the ben­e­fit of the doubt. I mean, you guys sawthe game, so I don’t know. I don’t want to say any­thing that will get me in trou­ble.”

Out of the time­out with 28.8 sec­onds to play, Har­ris burst through screens set by Far­rakhan and Sher­rill. Typ­i­cally, Har­ris said, he’s think­ing “shot” com­ing off a screen. This time, he wasn’t.

Less than a minute ear­lier, North Carolina for­ward Har­ri­son Barnes had “come out of nowhere” to block a jump shot at­tempt by Har­rell, Har­ris said. He could not shake that thought from his psy­che. Har­ris caught the ball be­yond the three-point line with 20.2 sec­onds on the game clock, saw Tar Heels guard Justin Watts charg­ing, pump­faked and drib­bled to­ward the top of the key.

“He [shoots] it ev­ery time in prac­tice,” said sopho­more guard Jon­tel Evans, who ended up missing a layup on that pos­ses­sion. “I was kind of sur­prised that he didn’t take it. You live and you learn from that. Next time I’ll bet he takes it with com­plete con­fi­dence.”

After­ward, Har­ris said his missed op­por­tu­nity was all he could think about. He said he re­gret­ted not tak­ing the shot, in part be­cause of the faith Ben­nett had of­fered in man­dat­ing the ball go to him in the first place.

There are many lessons the Cava­liers will learn from Satur­day’s loss, but as they ven­ture deeper into ACC play, per­haps none will res­onate more thanhow to han­dle even the briefest mo­ments of doubt.

“I had a lit­tle space there for a slight sec­ond,” Har­ris said. “ That’s when I should have pulled the trig­ger.”

STEVE HEL­BER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia guard JoeHar­ris, cen­ter, passed on a shot dur­ing a play de­signed for him in the fi­nal 30 sec­onds.

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