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December 10, 1998

Virginia vs. St. John’s
December 12, 1998 at 3:00 p.m.
University Hall – Charlottesville, Va.

The Series vs. the Red Storm
Virginia is winless in four games against St. John’s. This is the first meeting since St. John’s gained a 64-58 win during the 1986-87 season. Virginia’s four losses to St. John’s are the most by the Cavaliers to any opponent without a victory.

The Red Storm comes into today’s game ranked 18th in the current Associated Press poll, the third consecutive game in the series that the Red Storm has been ranked at game time by The Associated Press. The Cavaliers have never been ranked when facing St. John’s. (St. John’s was unranked by The Associated Press for the 1967-68 meeting, but was ranked 15th in the UPI coaches poll.)This is the fourth game in the series to occur in December.

St. John’s margin of victory has decreased or remained the same in each successive meeting. St. John’s won the first two contests by 19 points apiece. The Red Storm then won by 16 points and by six points in the most recent game.The Red Storm has a chance to join a rather exclusive club–non-conference teams with more than one win at University Hall. Only four schools can claim more than one win on the Cavaliers’ home court–Connecticut (three), Davidson, Old Dominion and Richmond (two each).

A look at the previous four games is below.

    Date   Site                  SJU AP rank  Score12/20/59   New York, N.Y. (MSG)     NR        90-71 12/2/67   Jamaica, N.Y.            NR        82-63 1/13/69   Charlottesville, Va.      8        77-6112/27/86   New York, N.Y. (MSG)     15        64-58

Virginia vs. the Big East Conference
The Cavaliers are 42-40 (.512) against the 13 schools in the Big East conference. Most of the games occurred prior to a school’s membership in the Big East.

In all games against the current membership of the Big East, Virginia is 9-11 vs. Georgetown, 8-8 vs. West Virginia, 7-3 vs. Pittsburgh, 5-1 vs. Notre Dame, 4-1 vs. Villanova, 3-0 vs. Boston College, 2-1 vs. Providence, 2-6 vs. Connecticut, 1-0 vs. Rutgers, 1-1 vs. Syracuse, 0-2 against Miami (Fla.) and Seton Hall, and 0-4 vs. St. John’s.

Virginia was the only ACC school to win all three games in the defunct ACC-Big East Challenge held from 1989-91. (Syracuse was the only Big East school to win all three games in the challenge).

“Fun N Gun” Off and Running
New head coach Pete Gillen’s coaching philosophy is to employ an up-tempo style of play. He favors a running and pressing tempo that enables his teams to have fun and lets the players use their creative talents. Gillen’s philosophy is in contrast with the style of play of the last 25 years or so in Charlottesville.

Gillen’s “fun and gun” style is off to a flying start so far this season. The Cavaliers are averaging 85.1 points per game, while forcing 19.9 turnovers per game.

Virginia is also shooting 47.5 percent from the field and is getting a lot of shots in transition (such as lay-ups and easy buckets underneath).Virginia’s 116 points against Hampton on November 25 is the fifth-highest single-game total in school history.

UVa also topped the century mark with 106 points against Elon in the next game (Nov. 28), marking the first time since the 1989 NCAA Tournament that UVa has had back-to-back 100-point games.

The Cavaliers have topped 80 points in six games this season, the first time they have done that since topping 80 points 13 times in 1994-95.

Four Reach Double Figures in Seven of Nine
Virginia has had seven games already this season when at least four Cavaliers scored in double figures (including four games with five players).

Led by Norman Nolan inside and Curtis Staples outside, Virginia was primarily a two-man offense last season. UVa had only four games all season with four players in double figures (none with more than four).

Virginia has had at least four players in double figures in each of the last five games, including placing five players in double figures in three of those games.

Rookie Williams Makes Early Impression
Chris Williams’ collegiate career consists of just nine games, but so far he’s made quite an impression.

In his collegiate debut he did something only one other UVa freshman has ever done–record a double-double in his debut. Williams scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as Virginia defeated Virginia Commonwealth. (For the record Scott Johnson in 1995-96 is the other UVa rookie to achieve a double-double in his debut.)

The player his teammates call “Big Smooth” added to his accomplishments by erasing Ralph Sampson’s name from the record book in one area on Tuesday. Williams tossed in a career-high 34 points against Liberty, breaking the previous UVa rookie record of 32 points by Sampson.

Williams is second on the team in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per game. He has scored at least 20 points three times. He leads the team in rebounding with a 7.7-per game average. He also owns both of UVa’s double-doubles.

Opponents Shoot Blanks at University Hall
Virginia is 31-6 against non-conference opponents at University Hall over the last six seasons. Among the reasons the Cavaliers have been so successful in non-conference games is their ability to out-shoot and out-rebound the other team.

In their wins, the Cavaliers have shot 46.3 percent from the field compared to 36.6 percent for the opposition. Virginia also out-rebounds the other team by more than 10 rebounds per game (44.5/g to 33.3/g).

In contrast, the tables are turned in Virginia’s home losses. The opponents shoot much better than Virginia (42.6 percent vs. 36.7 percent) and out-rebound the Cavaliers by a wide margin (42.5/g to 33.3/g).

Three of the five-highest shooting percentages by non-conference opponents on Virginia’s home floor the last six seasons have come in Virginia losses. Liberty shot 50.0 percent last season and stunned UVa 69-64. Ohio shot 47.4 percent in a 94-83 win during the 1994-95 season, while Connecticut shot 46.3 percent in winning the 1993-94 season opener.

Only 12 of the last 37 non-conference opponents to come to University Hall have managed to make more than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

Bomb Squad Hits Double Digits in Four of Five
Due mainly to the presence of NCAA three-point record-holder Curtis Staples, Virginia has been known recently as a team that shoots a lot of three-pointers. The Cavaliers made just two (in 13 attempts) in the season opener against VCU.Since then the Cavaliers are averaging 9.1 three-pointers per game, with 73 in the last eight contests.

The UVa bomb squad tied the school record by making 15 threes in 29 attempts in the win over Hampton on Nov. 25. That tied the 15 three-pointers Virginia made in 32 attempts against North Carolina on Feb. 14, 1990.Rookie Adam Hall was perfect from behind the line, hitting all five attempts. His performance tied two other players for the best perfect game in school history.

Willie Dersch made a run at Hall’s record against Elon. Dersch connected on his first six three-pointers, but missed his last three to finish six of nine against the Fightin’ Christians. The Cavaliers tossed in 13 three-pointers (in 27 attempts) in the game.

Virginia made 11 of 22 three-point attempts last Saturday against New Hampshire, with Hall leading the way again. The rookie from Katy, Texas, was true on all three of his attempts.

Virginia’s long range shooters connected on 10 threes (26 attempts) against Liberty on Tuesday, marking the fourth time in the last five games the Cavaliers have made at least 10 threes in a game.

The four games with at least 10 three-pointers already this season ties a rather curious school record. Virginia had four games of 10+ threes four times in 1995, ’96, and ’97.

Rebounding a Challenge for Small Line-Up
With only seven scholarship players on the roster, the Cavaliers suffer from a sheer lack of numbers. The roster includes seven walk-on players, including five selected in October following a tryout from among the student body. The Cavaliers feature only two players taller than 6-8, but only Kris Hunter is available for action. (Colin Ducharme is out with a broken ankle.)In UVa’s three losses, the Cavaliers have been out-rebounded by 27 boards (9.0/g). In its six wins, UVa has out-rebounded the opposition by 27 (4.5/g).Despite frequently operating with a small line-up, the Cavaliers have the same number of rebounds as the opposition after nine games.

Lack of Depth Presents Problems
One area of concern for head coach Pete Gillen is the lack of depth of his Cavalier squad. The roster features just seven scholarship players (of whom only five are currently healthy) and seven walk-ons.

Virginia has managed to build a double digit lead in every game this season, but has lost three games in the closing moments with fatigue caused by lack of depth a factor.

The problem was particularly evident at the recent Top of the World Classic in Alaska. In the first round game against Arkansas, Virginia built an early 10-point lead and maintained a lead until midway through the second half. The Razorbacks’ depth proved to be too much as the Cavaliers ultimately lost 85-83.The following afternoon against Wisconsin, Virginia was really in a bind. Three starters became ill prior to the game (Willie Dersch, Kris Hunter, Chris Williams). Hunter missed the game entirely, while Dersch and Williams weren’t at full strength. Nonetheless, Virginia built a 10-point lead early in the second half before the Badgers’ superior size and depth prevailed down the stretch. The Cavaliers made only five field goals in the second half and lost 66-56.

The final game in Alaska against Washington State also proved to be a nailbiter. The Cavaliers held an 18-point lead seven minutes into the second half (50-32) before going scoreless for 11:02. Washington State used the UVa drought to go on a 15-point run to cut the lead to 50-47. Donald Hand canned a huge three-pointer with 2:26 left to cut the Cougars’ momentum as UVa held on to win 62-53.

Virginia held a 14-point lead with just over seven minutes remaining against Florida State last week, but lost 72-69 when the Seminoles rallied down the stretch.

Non-Conference Teams at University Hall
Virginia is 172-26 (.869) all-time in University Hall against non-conference opponents since the building opened for the 1965-66 season.

The Cavaliers have won 54 of their last 61 home games against non-conference opponents dating back to the 1989-90 season (basically this decade).

Kris Hunter Makes Presence Felt Inside
Junior center Kris Hunter fell ill during the Cavaliers’ recent trip to Alaska, missing one game as a result. He didn’t stay down long, though.

In UVa’s 116-66 win over Hampton on November 25, he gave the Cavaliers a big spark off the bench. Head coach Pete Gillen labeled Hunter, “the star of the game.” The tallest player on the team (and the only healthy scholarship player taller than 6-6), he scored seven points, tied his career high with nine rebounds and rejected a career-high six shots.

He was an influence inside as UVa started three guards against Elon, scoring 10 points, pulling down six rebounds and blocking one shot in just 19 minutes of action.

Hunter scored eight points, led UVa with seven rebounds and blocked four shots last week against Florida State.

The Tallahassee, Fla., native was one of three Cavaliers to lead the team with 16 points last Saturday against New Hampshire. He also pulled down seven rebounds and swatted five shots to make his presence felt inside.One of the fastest shot blockers in the ACC, Hunter has turned away 24 shots in just 188 minutes this season. That’s one every 7.8 minutes.

Everybody Chips In
With a roster that features just seven scholarship players (only five are healthy right now), it stands to reason the Cavaliers need everybody to contribute. So far that’s been the case as Donald Hand became the first player to lead the team in scoring in back-to-back games last Saturday vs. New Hampshire. He was one of three Cavaliers to lead with 16 points vs. the Wildcats.

Hand poured in a career-high 24 points in the season opener against Virginia Commonwealth, while Chezley Watson’s career-high 21 points led UVa vs. Arkansas.

Adam Hall led in two of the next three games, with Hand leading in the other.Against Elon on November 28 it was Willie Dersch’s opportunity to carry the scoring load. Dersch, who connected on his first six three-pointers in the contest, finished with a career-high 26 points. The performance marked the first time in his career he led the team in scoring.

Hand led the Cavaliers with 19 points in the 72-69 loss to Florida State last week.

A trio of Cavaliers (Adam Hall, Donald Hand, Kris Hunter) carried the scoring load with 16 points apiece last Saturday against New Hampshire. Hunter’s output represents a career high.

Rookie Chris Williams, the team’s second-leading scorer, poured in a UVa freshman record 34 points in Tuesday’s win over Liberty.

The six different leading scorers are considerably more than UVa had all of last season, when Norman Nolan led 20 times, Curtis Staples nine and Colin Ducharme once.

Character Builders
The last few months have certainly been character builders for head coach Pete Gillen, his staff and the Cavaliers. Perhaps that’s what you can expect when you open the season on Friday the 13th.

First, Gillen had a roster that included just seven scholarship players for this season and two of the players were incoming freshmen. A tryout was held in October to add enough players to fill out the roster.

Then in mid-August, University Hall was closed for approximately two months for structural repairs. The repairs forced the team to begin its preseason practice at an on-Grounds recreation center.

Two days after the season opener, starting center Colin Ducharme slipped on some wet steps and broke his ankle. He has since had surgery and is out for an indefinite time.

The recent trip to Alaska for the Top of the World Classic presented additional bad news. Three Cavaliers, Willie Dersch, Kris Hunter and Chris Williams, became ill shortly after UVa’s first round loss to Arkansas and had to be hospitalized. Hunter missed the game against Wisconsin the next day, while Dersch and Williams played but were not at full strength.

All told, the Cavaliers played three games in 41 hours in Alaska.The bad luck continued on December 1 against Florida State as Chezley Watson sprained his right ankle midway in the first half and missed the rest of the game, reducing UVa’s number of available scholarship players to five. Watson has missed the last two games and is listed as day-to-day.

Rookies Provide Scoring Punch vs. Hampton
Virginia’s two leading scorers against Hampton on November 25 were freshmen. Adam Hall led the way with a career-high 27 points, while classmate Chris Williams scored 21 points.

Their performance marked only the second time since 1972-73 (when freshman eligibility was restored) that two Cavalier rookies scored 20+ points in a game. Cory Alexander scored 24 and Junior Burrough 22 against North Carolina on February 19, 1992.

Add walk-on freshman Cade Lemcke’s three points and UVa’s rookies scored 51 points vs. Hampton. That is the UVa record for combined freshmen scoring in a game. The previous record was the combined 46 points by Alexander and Burrough in that 1992 game against North Carolina.

Dawn of a New Era
The Pete Gillen Era is in its early stages at the University of Virginia. Gillen was named the ninth head coach in school history on March 28, 1998, replacing Jeff Jones, who resigned following last season. Gillen brings impressive coaching credentials to Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers are 6-3 this season and are playing an up-tempo brand of basketball, the likes of which have not been characteristic of Virginia hoops.His career record in 14 seasons as a head coach is 280-131 (.681). Prior to coming to UVa, he coached at Providence where he guided the Big East Conference school to a four-year record of 72-53. Two years ago he led the Friars to the NCAA’s “Elite Eight” where they lost in overtime to eventual national champion Arizona in the finals of the Southeast Regional. Under his direction, Providence competed in the NIT in 1995 and 1996.

Gillen’s success at Providence came on the heels of a remarkable nine-year stint as head coach at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. While there, he became the winningest coach in the school’s history with an overall record of 202-75.

Gillen led the small Catholic institution to unprecedented national success. The Musketeers participated in the NCAA Tournament seven times and reached the Midwest Regional semifinals in 1990. Gillen led Xavier to six regular season conference championships and five conference tournament championships.

Walk-on Tryouts Held
With a roster that featured just eight scholarship players (only seven can play) and two walk-ons, the Virginia coaching staff conducted tryouts among the UVa student body to round out the roster for the upcoming season. Approximately 40 candidates showed up for the open tryouts on October 20.

Five members of the student body survived a round of drills and interviews to make the team.

The quintet chosen following the tryout join sophomore Greg Lyons and freshman Cade Lemcke to give head coach Pete Gillen and his staff a total of seven walk-on players to use in game preparation.

Gillen readily concedes that playing time for these players may be limited. Josh Hare has seen the most action. He has played in every game (started vs. Wisconsin and Elon) and is averaging 22.8 minutes per game. He is averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Raleigh Harbour, a fifth-year student, was pressed into action due to Kris Hunter’s illness and started against Wisconsin. He played 14 minutes, but did not score. He scored his first collegiate points Tuesday against Liberty.Jason Dowling (six games) and Brandon Lloyd (five games) have each tossed in one field goal. Dowling scored a three-pointer vs. Wisconsin, while Lloyd put the Cavaliers over the century mark against Elon.

Local product Marcus Martin, a high school star at Western Albemarle, has been slowed recently by an injury, but got the first bucket of his college career last Saturday against New Hampshire.

The five successful walk-on candidates are listed below.

 # Name            Pos.   Ht.  Wt. Yr. Hometown 5 Brandon Lloyd   G/F   6-4  184  Fr. Springfield, Va.21 Jason Dowling   G/F   6-2  191  Fr. Brooklyn, N.Y.22 Josh Hare        G    6-2  197  So. Vernon, Conn.25 Marcus Martin    F    6-5  218  Fr. Charlottesville, Va.55 Raleigh Harbour  F    6-8  217  Sr. Hinsdale, Ill.

Virginia (1998-99 record: 6-3/0-1 in the ACC) plays its sixth consecutive home game this afternoon against nationally-ranked St. John’s (1998-99 record: 7-2/2-0 in the Big East) at University Hall. Tip off is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.

Rankings: St. John’s is Virginia’s second ranked opponent this season. The Red Storm are ranked 18th in this week’s Associated Press poll and 20th in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.

Television: Today’s game is being televised by ESPN regional television. Bob Picozzi is the play by play announcer and Bucky Waters is the analyst.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WQMZ in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Jim Hobgood provides the analysis.

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