By: Raj Sagar, Virginia Athletics Media Relations
Three. It isn’t just a hot spot on The Corner, it’s what Cavalier basketball lives and dies by. Tuesday night against the 1-3-1 zone defense of the Northwestern Wildcats, Virginia lived. Hosting their leg of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, the Cavaliers shot their way to a 94-52 victory.
Virginia set the tone early as on their first score, senior guard Sean Singletary drove to the basket, and swung the ball into the corner for junior guard Mamadi Diane, who drilled the three-pointer. Finishing the first half with seven assists, Singletary digressed from him normal go-to-scorer role, and became more of a distributing point guard for Virginia. Singletary finished the game with a career high 10 assists.
“Sean’s always been an unselfish player,” sophomore guard Calvin Baker said. “We fortunately were making shots today and that got his assists up.”
The Cavaliers set the tone early as eight of their first nine field goals were from behind the arc. Six different Cavaliers got in the act and connected from deep during that stretch.
With three minutes left in the first half, Singletary exemplified Virginia’s philosophy perfectly. After soaring for a defensive rebound, Singletary pushed the ball up for Virginia. When Northwestern failed to step out on him, Singletary pulled up from a foot behind the arc, and nailed it.
Virginia kept their hot touch throughout the first half as they shot 60 percent on 12 of 20 from behind the arc, and finished the game at 50 percent on 16 of 32 from long range.
Patience was key to Virginia’s success from long range as they repeatedly worked the ball around on offense, and found the open man. The Cavaliers rarely forced a shot and instead always worked to get a good look at the basket. The guards showed their unselfishness as they often made the extra pass to set up a better shot.
“We took 32 [three point attempts] because 32 was the number that presented itself because they played a lot of zone,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “We shot 50 percent while taking that many, and as long as we are taking them in rhythm, I will continue to encourage the guys shoot it.”
Diane finished the game with 22 points on six of nine shooting from three point land while Baker was a perfect four for four from deep with 16 points.
Virginia now has eight days off before they face Big-East powerhouse Syracuse next Wednesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.