Ben­nett’s Cavs re­main on guard in vic­tory over Yel­low Jack­ets

Four-man back court lifts Vir­ginia to 2-3 in the ACC

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

char­lottesville— With one of Ge­or­gia Tech’s for­wards out be­cause of ill­ness and yet an­other Vir­ginia post player deal­ing with a lower ex­trem­ity in­jury, Coach Tony Ben­nett said his de­ci­sion to start four guards es­sen­tially was made for him on Satur­day.

The choi­ce­proved­fruit­fu­lo­nan af­ter­noon when the Cava­liers shot 66.7 per­cent from three-point range and used the cush­ion pro­vided by a 14-point half­time lead to coast to a 72-64 win. The vic­tory snapped a three-game ACC los­ing skid for Vir­ginia (11-8, 2-3), which had strug­gled of late to close out games af­ter hold­ing sec­ond-half leads.

“I think at times, yeah, we have to have a pretty solid dose of that,” Ben­nett said of the four-guard look the Cava­liers uti­lized nearly the en­tire game. “And of course, play­ing four guards of­fen­sively helps us spread the floor, and can we han­dle it on the glass? De­fen­sively, that’s the ques­tionwe’ve got to keep an­swer­ing.”

The ques­tion Ben­nett had to make be­fore Satur­day’s game was whether to start se­nior for­ward Will Sher­rill or fresh­man guard JoeHar­ris. There were sev­eral fac­tors at play, one of which was Sher­rill’s con­tin­u­ing re­cov­ery from the frac­tured right fibula he suf­fered in lateNovem­ber.

Ben­nett re­vealed af­ter Satur­day’s win that ju­nior cen­ter As­sane Sene had rolled his an­kle near the end ofWed­nes­day’s 70-67 loss at Bos­ton Col­lege and that Sene’s play­ing sta­tus again­stGe­or­gia Tech was not de­ter­mined un­til pregame warmups were com­pleted. Sene started and recorded four points and five re­bounds in 23 min­utes.

The Yel­low Jack­ets (9-9, 2-3), mean­time, were with­out 6-foot-8 start­ing for­ward Kam­meon Holsey, who missed the game be­cause of stom­ach flu.

Ben­nett elected to start Har­ris for the first time in five games, and Har­ris re­sponded by tal­ly­ing 11 points and a team-high eight re­bounds. Har­ris also helped Vir­ginia jump out to an 11-4 lead. The Cava­liers made four three-point­ers be­fore the first me­dia time­out and led by 16 points be­fore the break.

“I’ve been play­ing the four a lot lately ever since [se­nior for­ward Mike Scott] has been out, and As­sane didn’t prac­tice the last two days, so ob­vi­ously my mind-set wasto fill the void there for get­ting re­bounds,” Har­ris said. “I knew I was go­ing to have to step it up.”

Vir­ginia be­gan the game with three play­ers— se­nior guardMustapha Far­rakhan, fresh­man guard K.T. Har­rell and Har­ris — on the floor who were shoot­ing 39 per­cent or bet­ter from three-point range. The trio com­bined to make 8 of 13 (61.5 per­cent) from be­yond the arc Satur­day against aGe­or­gia Tech squad that was rankedNo. 11 in theACCinthree-point field goal per­cent­age de­fense.

The Cava­liers made 7 of 8 three­p­oint­ers in the first half and 10 of 15 over­all. The play turned sloppy near the end of the game, ren­der­ing the fi­nal score an in­ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of how thor­oughly Vir­ginia con­trolled the pro­ceed­ings.

“You can put teams in a gym by them­selves that wide open and they are not go­ing to make seven out of eight” three-point­ers, Ge­or­gia Tech Coach Paul He­witt said. “It just shows you that you have to be pre­pared to stop peo­ple, as op­posed­to­hop­ingthat they miss.”

Far­rakhan fin­ished with a game-high 23 points, while Har­rell reg­is­tered 17.

Vir­ginia plays at a faster tempo in its four-guard look, and on Satur­day that proved ef­fec­tive in pres­sur­ing Ge­or­gia Tech— an­other team with a rel­a­tively small lineup— into nu­mer­ous de­fen­sive break­downs.

Ben­nett has had to be cre­ative in match­ing up his team against op­po­nents for the past month af­ter los­ing Scott to what turned out to be a sea­son-end­ing an­kle in­jury. With a host of guards and a short sup­ply of healthy post play­ers, Ben­nett’s in­ge­nu­ity of late has con­sisted of uti­liz­ing vari­a­tions of guards on the floor with ei­ther Sene or fresh­man for­ward Akil Mitchell in­side.

“I think we can do a lot [in a four-guard lineup] be­cause we have guards who are very ver­sa­tile,” Har­rell said. “We have guys who can play the three or the four, so it’s easy for us to play four guards. We like to get it out in tran­si­tion and find easy looks.”

SAB­RINA SCHA­EF­FER/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Se­niorMustapha Far­rakhan dunks for two of his game-high 23 points against Ge­or­gia Tech.

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