By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Had the game been played as scheduled Dec. 19, Mike Scott would have been a spectator, meaning the UVa men’s basketball team would have been short-handed inside.
For that reason alone, the Cavaliers can consider the record-setting snowstorm that began falling Dec. 18 in Central Virginia — and subsequently forced the postponement of their game with UNC Wilmington at John Paul Jones Arena — a blessing.
We’ll never know if the Wahoos would have beaten the Seahawks with Scott (13.3 ppg, 8 rpg) out with the high-ankle sprain he’d suffered in practice Dec. 5.
But this much is sure: UVa (11-4) is better with its top post player in the lineup, and the 6-8, 239-pound junior will play Monday night against UNCW (6-11) in the makeup game at JPJ.
The Cavaliers are seeking their eighth consecutive victory, which would be their longest winning streak since 2003-04. UNCW, meanwhile, has lost three in a row and six of its past eight games.
In November, though, the Seahawks beat Penn State, a team that won at Virginia later that month, and they prevailed at William and Mary on Jan. 4.
“We’ll have to be ready,” UVa’s Tony Bennett said Monday afternoon on the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “If we’ve established a certain caliber of play, I certainly hope it will show tonight when we play them. But to have Mike Scott as opposed to not having Mike Scott, that certainly is a plus for us.”
Until recently, Scott was UVa’s only legitimate scoring option in the low post. In the Cavaliers’ past three games, however, Jerome Meyinsse has made 9 of 15 shots from the floor and averaged 6.7 points.
Those aren’t all-conference numbers, but for a guy who entered his senior season with a career scoring average of 2.1 points, they represent substantial progress.
Meyinsse, a 6-9, 233-pound center from Baton Rouge, La., scored 6 points Saturday night against Miami to help Virginia remain unbeaten in ACC play.
He’s always had offensive skills, said Meyinsse, proudly wearing a New Orleans Saints T-shirt, “but I think as the season has progressed, I’ve gotten more confident, and my teammates have gotten more confident in me to give me the ball in key situations of the game.”
Miami center Dwayne Collins “was playing behind me,” Meyinsse said. “I felt good today, and I was calling for the ball, and my teammates fed it to me.”
Meyinsse mostly operates in the lane and around the basket. He’s a good complement to Scott, who has a more polished and varied offensive game.
“I like moving Mike around, depending on who’s guarding him,” Bennett said. “He has the ability to hit a midrange shot, put it on the floor and post. Again, we talk about completeness for our guards. Hopefully he’s developing that for himself.”
This is the third game in six days for both teams. After Monday night, however, the ‘Hoos don’t play again until Saturday afternoon, when they visit Wake Forest.
The Seahawks won’t get much rest. From Charlottesville they’ll head to Atlanta, where they play Colonial Athletic Association rival Georgia State on Wednesday night.
Miami has since fallen out of The Associated Press poll, but the Hurricanes were ranked No. 23 when they played at JPJ on Saturday night. UVa romped 75-57, its second straight win over a ranked opponent.
“Momentum is a strong thing, and I think they’re riding it,” Bennett said of his players.
He wants them to be confident. He also wants them to remember what got them to this point.
After the Miami game, Bennett said, “I told them, ‘Good win, good start. Stay humble, and let’s just keep trying to get after it.'”