Dec. 17, 2009
2:28 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — In November, the UVa men’s basketball team played seven games in a span of 18 days.

The Cavaliers have played once this month.

That was on Dec. 7, when UVa lost 68-67 at Auburn. Classes ended at Virginia the next day, and students began studying for final exams, which conclude Friday.

UVa’s next game is Saturday night against UNC Wilmington at John Paul Jones Arena.

Tony Bennett spent six seasons at Washington State, the final three as head coach, before coming to Virginia last spring.

At WSU, the basketball team broke for final exams, too, but only for about a week.

“Certainly there’s challenges [with UVa’s schedule],” Bennett said Thursday afternoon, “because you’re not playing, and we have a heck of a team coming in here on Saturday.

“It’s an interesting schedule we have. We’ve played so many games in a short amount of time, and then [there is] a monster break like we had. But it’s necessary when you’re at a school like Virginia. The way they put the finals, the length of it, that’s the way it goes.”

The good news, Bennett said, is that the break between games means “you really can get to work on practicing. Now, sometimes [the players’] minds are in different places, but we’ve tried to use it to really work hard and get some quality practice time and work on some things that we haven’t been able to address when games were upon us … So you just try to find the positive in it and go to work.”

UVa has been practicing hard for two days in a row, Bennett said, and then taking a day off. And then repeating the process.

“Hopefully it helps them physically and, most importantly, gives them the time to study hard and prepare for their exams,” Bennett said.

Virginia (4-4) plays its next five games at JPJ. New Jersey Institute of Technology comes to town on Monday night, Hampton on Wednesday night, UAB on Dec. 30 and Texas-Pan American on Jan. 5.

UVa’s ACC opener is Jan. 9 at N.C. State.

The Cavaliers’ most talented big man, 6-8 junior Mike Scott, hasn’t practiced since suffering a high-ankle sprain Dec. 5. Scott’s status for the UNCW game remains uncertain.

“It’s kind of day to day,” Bennett said. “There’s been certainly a nice amount of time to rehab and recover. Time heals and, as they say, therapy amuses. But I think he’s getting good therapy, and he’s certainly doing the things he needs to do to strengthen it.

“I just don’t know. He’s progressing, I know that. So that’s positive. We were hoping we’d probably be a little further along, but we’re not going to rush it, that’s for sure.”

Jeff White

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