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January 29, 1999

Virginia at Florida State
January 30, 1999 – Noon
Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center
Tallahassee, Fla.

The Series vs. the Seminoles
Virginia holds a slim 8-7 lead in the series with Florida State, but has lost the last three games. The Cavaliers are 4-3 at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center and have won three of the last four games on the Seminoles’ home floor. Florida State is the only ACC school against which the Cavaliers have a winning road record.

In this season’s first meeting, the Seminoles gained a 72-69 win in Charlottesville in December in the ACC opener for both teams. The Seminoles won both of last season’s battles (71-63 in Charlottesville and 88-63 in Tallahassee). Last season’s sweep was Florida State’s first against Virginia.

Overall in the series, five of Virginia’s wins over the Seminoles have been by nine points or less, while three of its losses have been by 15+ points. In addition, three of Florida State’s last four wins have been by fewer than nine points.

Looking for ACC Road Win
Virginia is having its troubles on the road this season. The Cavaliers won at Loyola (Md.) on December 30, but have dropped four consecutive games on opponents’ home courts since that victory.

Virginia has also not won an ACC road game this season, going 0-4 (all four losses to the North Carolina schools).

The Cavaliers haven’t won an ACC road game since a 55-46 win over N.C. State February 19, 1997, a span of 12 consecutive ACC road losses.

The current ACC road losing streak is the Cavaliers’ longest since a 17-game slide from 1969-71.

Williams Leading Candidate for Rookie of the Year
As the second half of the ACC schedule starts, it’s time for people to give consideration for the various postseason awards.

Virginia features the leading candidate for ACC Rookie of the Year – Chris Williams.

The Birmingham, Ala., native is among the ACC leaders in virtually every category this season.

He is third in the conference in scoring with a 17.8-ppg average. If he leads the league in scoring this season he would join Georgia Tech’s Mark Price in 1983 as the only rookies to lead the league.

Williams is bidding to become only the fifth player in ACC history to lead his team in scoring and rebounding as a freshman. The others are listed below.

Clemson – Greg Buckner, 1994-95*
Maryland – Joe Smith, 1993-94*
Wake Forest – Chris King, 1988-89; Rodney Rogers, 1990-91*
*ACC Rookie of the Year

UVa Features Two of ACC’s Leading Scorers
Last season’s Virginia squad was led in the scoring column by Norman Nolan (21.0 ppg) and Curtis Staples (18.1 ppg), the only Cavaliers in double figures.

This season UVa sports four double-digit scorers for the first time in two years.

Freshman Chris Williams is third in the league with an average of 17.8 ppg. If his pace holds up it would be the highest scoring average ever by a Virginia freshman.

Not far behind Williams is Donald Hand, second among ACC point guards in scoring this season. Hand is eighth in the conference with a 16.3-ppg average.

Rookie Adam Hall is UVa’s third-leading scorer, averaging 11.2 ppg, while Willie Dersch is the fourth double-digit scorer, averaging 10.9 ppg.

Hitting a Shooting Slump
Virginia is in the midst of a shooting slump that has become more apparent as the Cavaliers play deeper into their ACC schedule and the level of competition rises.

After shooting a near season-high 55.8 percent from the floor in a win over Loyola (Md.) late last month, UVa was shooting 47.6 percent from the floor.

But the Cavaliers have topped 38 percent only three times in the last eight contests, including a 53.5-percent performance in a non-conference match-up against Virginia Tech on Wednesday.

In the last eight games, UVa is shooting 38.6 percent from the field, including 25.4 percent from three-point range. The Cavaliers have seen a slowdown in their offense and have averaged 62.6 ppg in the last eight games.

Here is a look at UVa’s shooting in January.

Opp.           FG             3FG           Pts.W. Forest      23-64 (.359)   5-29 (.172)   53Maryland       20-60 (.333)   6-19 (.316)   66Duke           27-73 (.370)   6-21 (.286)   69N.C. State     27-57 (.474)   7-18 (.389)   72Clemson        21-46 (.457)   9-26 (.346)   65N. Carolina    18-65 (.277)   4-31 (.129)   47Ga. Tech       23-63 (.365)   7-27 (.259)   65Va. Tech       23-43 (.535)   2-10 (.200)   64Last 8 games   38.6 %         25.4 %        62.6 ppg

Cavaliers Go Small at Times
With only one scholarship player taller than 6-6 available for action, it’s not unusual to see the Cavaliers go very small at times.

When head coach Pete Gillen goes this route, Virginia features an unusual quintet of Willie Dersch (6-6), Adam Hall (6-5), Donald Hand (5-11), Chezley Watson (6-2) and Chris Williams (6-6). This line-up features an average height of approximately 6-4 and is the one that started vs. Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

When UVa plays this line-up, Hall or Williams is typically the player guarding the opposing center on the defensive end.

Even when the team’s tallest player, 6-11 Kris Hunter, is on the floor, Virginia could still be considered a “small” team that doesn’t feature a true power forward, but does feature a hybrid line-up of combination point guards/wing players/small forwards.

Factors to Victory
Conventional baseball wisdom says it takes pitching and defense to win. For Virginia’s basketball program this season it has been the ability to play an up-tempo game where its pressure defense creates opportunities for fastbreaks and lay-ups on the offensive end.

The Cavaliers don’t have a lot of depth or size down low and have shown a tendency to run out of gas down the stretch against bigger teams.

Virginia’s lack of size inside is best exhibited by the rebounding margin. The Cavaliers are last in the ACC in rebound margin at -5.8/g. The problem has been particularly evident in losses when the Cavaliers are out-rebounded by 14.2 boards per game.

There is also a great difference in field goal and three-point shooting between wins and losses.

A look at several areas broken down when the Cavaliers win and lose is below.

              UVa wins     UVa losesUVa FG%           49.8     38.3UVa 3FG%          37.7     27.0UVa reb./g        36.5     28.6UVa reb. margin   +1.9     -14.2UVa Ast.:TO       1.10:1   0.82:1UVa PPG           84.5     64.8Opp. FG%          39.1     50.7Opp. 3FG%         26.3     37.2Opp. FTA/g        15.2     25.0Opp. Ast.:TO      0.61:1   0.81:1Opp. PPG          63.0     80.3

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.

As a result, Virginia is last in the ACC in rebounding margin (-5.8 rpg).

In the Cavaliers’ 10 losses, they have been out-rebounded by an average of 14.2 rpg and have been out-rebounded by at least 10 rebounds on five occasions.

St. John’s out-rebounded the Cavaliers by 31 (58-27). The Red Storm retrieved 31 of its own misses, four more rebounds than Virginia grabbed on both ends of the floor. The rebound difference of 31 is tied for the 10th-biggest rebound margin against the Cavaliers in school history.

Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest have all used their superior inside size and strength to hold a 20-rebound advantage against the Cavaliers.

Even in Virginia’s most recent ACC win (over Clemson), the Cavaliers were beaten on the boards by 14. Something you don’t see very often occurred – Clemson rebounded more of its shots than Virginia did (19 to 18). Clemson had nine rebounds before the Cavaliers pulled down their first (at 10:37 of the first half). From that point on, the battle of the boards was nearly even.

Williams Tops ACC Rookies
Chris Williams’ collegiate career consists of just 21 games, but he’s made quite an impression in a brief time. In fact, he’s made enough of an impression he has to be considered the leading candidate for ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

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. (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. Williams tossed in a career-high 34 points against Liberty (an ACC high this season), breaking the previous UVa rookie record of 32 points by Sampson.

Williams pulled down 15 rebounds vs. VMI, the most by a UVa freshman in more than 18 years (since the days of Sampson).

He has been named ACC Rookie of the Week three times this season, more than any other player in the league.

Williams leads the team in a variety of categories – scoring (17.8 ppg, third in the ACC), rebounding (7.6 rpg, sixth in the ACC), and field goal shooting (52.1 percent, third in the ACC). Additionally, he is second in blocked shots (27, seventh in the ACC) and steals (34), and third in assists (44).

He has scored at least 20 points seven times and owns all four of UVa’s double-doubles.

Hand Comes Back Big vs. Clemson
N.C. State held Donald Hand to eight points in a win over Virginia on January 14. It was the first time all season Hand, Virginia’s second-leading scorer, had been held below 10.

Hand bounced back from the State game and was a key factor as the Cavaliers gained their first conference win of the season with a 65-58 win over Clemson on January 17. The win ended Virginia’s four-game losing streak, and gave the very young Cavaliers some much needed confidence.

Hand tossed in a career-high 27 points and added six assists to pace the Virginia attack. Remarkably, he played the entire game without so much as a second’s rest.

He pumped in five three-pointers in the first half, en route to scoring 17 points in the opening 20 minutes as Virginia held a slim 33-29 lead.

The second half looked like it might shape up like so many others this season where the Cavaliers wear down due to a lack of depth and size. Clemson took a 53-49 lead with just under five minutes left.

Hand was relatively quiet for the first 15 minutes of the second half, but reasserted himself to spur Virginia down the stretch. He hit a jumper in the lane and the ensuing free throw with 4:28 to go to bring UVa to within one. He then made all four of his free throw attempts in the final 1:27 as the Cavaliers held off the Tigers for the win.

Bomb Squad Finding the Mark
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. This season the Cavaliers are second in the ACC in three-pointers, averaging 7.0 threes per game.

At their current rate, the Cavaliers would set a school record for most three-pointers per game. The 1994-95 squad holds the current record with 6.8 triples per game.

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 against New Hampshire, with Hall leading the way again. The rookie was true on all three of his attempts.

UVa’s long range shooters connected on 13 threes (26 attempts) against Loyola, marking the fifth time this season the Cavaliers made at least 10 threes in a game.

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

Dersch Leads in Scoring in Two of Last Three
As one of the team’s co-captains and “elder statesmen,” junior Willie Dersch is expected to take on the role of team leader.

He has improved his scoring more than 50 percent to 10.9 ppg this season.

Scoring isn’t the only area where he has shown improvement from last season. He is shooting the ball better from three-point range (31.5 percent), as well as overall (41.8 percent), and is much improved from the free throw line (79.6 percent).

Following head coach Pete Gillen’s philosophy of a pressuring defense, Dersch has already established a career high with 29 steals, despite frequently being matched up with bigger and faster opponents.

He has scored in double figures in six of the last seven games against some of the nation’s toughest defensive teams. He scored 18 points against Georgia Tech last weekend, the most in his career against an ACC opponent. He also led the Cavaliers with 13 points vs. North Carolina in the game before Georgia Tech.

Against in-state rival Virginia Tech, Dersch tossed in 14 points on four of six shooting from the field.

His last seven games are outlined below. He needs to score 12 points today to put together the best eight-game scoring stretch of his career.

Opp.         FG      FT     PtsMd.          4-11    4-4    15*Duke         5-15    1-1    13N.C. State   6-14    5-6    17Clemson      1-7     1-2     3No. Carolina 4-14    5-6    13*Ga. Tech     6-12    4-4    18*Va. Tech     4-6     5-6    14Last 7       38.0%   86.2%  13.3 ppg

*Led Team

Defensive Pressure Creates Steals
One of head coach Pete Gillen’s philosophies is to employ a pressing defense to create steals and lead to easy baskets.

So far this season the ability to create steals is evident as the Cavaliers average 9.0 steals per game, third in the ACC. This has also enabled Virginia to rank third in the ACC in turnover margin, forcing 2.6 more turnovers per game than it commits.

Donald Hand leads the team with 40 steals, followed closely by Chris Williams’ 34 and Chezley Watson’s 30. Two players – Willie Dersch and Adam Hall – have 29 steals.

Virginia is poised to have five players with at least 30 steals for the first time in school history.

Virginia has 189 steals this season, 55 more than all of last season, and is well on the way to setting a school record for steals.

The 1981-82 squad holds the school record for most steals (254) and highest average (7.5 spg).

Career Highs for Everyone
Virginia’s roster features 14 players (seven scholarship players and seven walk-ons). Of the 14 players, 10 are freshmen or sophomores. Walk-on Raleigh Harbour is the only senior, while Willie Dersch, Colin Ducharme and Kris Hunter are the lone juniors.

Curiously, every player on the team has topped his previous career high for most points scored in a season. In some instances it took less than a month for a player to establish a new career high for points. Willie Dersch was the last player to join the club after scoring 13 points against North Carolina last week.

Hand Gets to the Line
As Virginia’s floor leader, one of the duties of point guard Donald Hand is to penetrate the lane and either find an open teammate to pass to or draw a foul.

So far this season, Hand seems to be succeeding on both counts. He leads the team with 87 assists and has gotten to the free throw line an amazing 125 times already.

His ability to get to the free throw line is reminiscent of Harold Deane, who is among the leading free throw shooters in both makes and attempts by a guard in ACC history.

Hand leads all ACC players in free throws made (107) and is tied for second behind Elton Brand (131) with 125 attempts.

In fact, Hand has made more free throws than all but four ACC players have even attempted this season.

Hand has connected on 85.6 percent of his attempts and is second in the league in free throw percentage.

Hand has gotten to the line at least 10 times on four occasions this season. He made a run at the school record for accuracy against VMI last month. He made his first 13 attempts before missing and finished 15 of 16 from the line.

He had a streak of 22 consecutive free throws made snapped against Georgia Tech last Saturday.

Hunter Ties Career High vs. Tigers
Tallahassee, Fla., native Kris Hunter is the team’s only player taller than 6-8 currently available to play. In his role as the lone big man, he is having to carry a much bigger load than at any time in his career. And he’s filled the role with varying degrees of success this season.

In the three games before UVa played Clemson on January 17, he had pulled down a total of 11 rebounds and scored just 14 points while fouling out twice.

He played a key part in the win over Clemson in Virginia’s first ACC victory of the year.

Despite being matched against Clemson big men Harold Jamison, Tom Wideman and Adam Allenspach, he managed to stay out of foul trouble to equal his career high with 11 rebounds. He also logged 36 minutes, the longest stint of his career.

Hunter also scored five points, including a crucial three-point play with 3:37 remaining to give Virginia the lead for good at 56-55.

Two minutes later Hunter rejected a dunk attempt by Jamison that would have cut the UVa lead to one point.

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 a definite date for his return has not been established.

The 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, Virginia 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 missed two games and returned to action against St. John’s.

It might be true what people say about things happening in threes. Key reserve Josh Hare became the third Cavalier to injure an ankle. He broke his left ankle against Delaware in late December and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Williams Already Among Top Rookie Scorers
Freshman Chris Williams is third in the ACC in scoring this season, averaging 17.8 ppg. If he can maintain that pace (or even average more than 17.3 ppg), he would set a UVa record for highest scoring average by a freshman. Jeff Lamp holds the current school record by averaging 17.3 ppg as a rookie in 1977-78.

Williams has scored 374 points this season, the eighth-highest output by a freshman in school history. At his current pace, he should continue to move up Virginia’s all-time freshman scoring chart in virtually every game this season.

A look at the leading freshman scorers in Virginia history is below.

      Player, year                 Pts   Avg. 1.   Bryant Stith (88-89)         513   15.5 2.   Ralph Sampson (79-80)        508   14.9 3.   Jeff Lamp (77-78)            485   17.3 4.   Junior Burrough (91-92)      437   13.2 5.   Curtis Staples (94-95)       404   11.9 6.   Harold Deane (93-94)         381   12.3 7.   Courtney Alexander (95-96)   375   13.9 8.   Chris Williams (98-99)       374   17.8 9.   Cory Alexander (91-92)       370   11.210.   Wally Walker (72-73)         316   13.7

Hunter 12th in Nation in Blocks
Junior center Kris Hunter joins Donald Hand and Chezley Watson as Cavaliers who seem to have taken to Pete Gillen’s up-tempo style of play.

Hunter was used sparingly as a freshman, averaging 1.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 15 appearances.

Last season the lanky Tallahassee, Fla., native improved to 2.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, while seeing his average minutes per game almost triple (to 12.3 per game).

With the Virginia roster featuring just seven scholarship players and only one other player (the currently injured Colin Ducharme) taller than 6-8, it figured that Hunter would be asked to play a bigger role this season.

So far he has shown flashes of excellence, particularly in blocking shots.

Hunter is 12th in the nation in blocked shots (and second in the ACC), averaging 3.0 per game with 59 blocks in 20 games. His 59 blocked shots are already fifth in school history (and the most by a player other than Ralph Sampson). Hunter has 97 career blocked shots, fourth in school history.

Hunter has blocked five shots in six different games, including rejecting a career-high six shots vs. Hampton. He turned back five shots against North Carolina on January 21.

One of the fastest shot blockers in the ACC, Hunter has turned away the 59 shots in just 504 minutes this season. That’s one every 8.5 minutes.

Hunter is second on the team in rebounding (5.1 rpg) and averages 5.9 ppg.

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