By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — His stat line didn’t dazzle, but Calvin Baker rejoined UVa’s rotation Sunday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., and the senior guard’s contribution pleased his coach, Tony Bennett.
Baker, who played six minutes in the first half, checked back into the game with 12:34 left and Virginia leading 53-33 at the Dean Smith Center. He didn’t come out until the clock showed :36.
He finished with 3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist and 3 turnovers in UVa’s 75-60 rout of North Carolina.
Baker, a team captain, hadn’t played since Jan. 18, two days after freshman Jontel Evans replaced him in the starting lineup. Baker didn’t handle his demotion well, and that didn’t go over well with Bennett.
In the week leading up to UVa’s Jan. 23 game against Wake Forest, Baker wasn’t allowed to practice with the team, and he didn’t make the trip to Winston-Salem, N.C.
Two days later, however, Baker was back at practice, and he was in uniform Jan. 28 for Virginia’s game against Virginia Tech at John Paul Jones Arena.
Baker didn’t play against the Hokies, who rallied late to force overtime and eventually won 76-71.
“He was back with the team, and I was planning on using him, but we were up 10 with three minutes [left in regulation] and playing solid basketball,” Bennett said Monday on the ACC coaches’ teleconference.
“There was a time in that game when I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll put him in,’ but we were fairly steady and didn’t go that direction. Then against Carolina I thought we needed his experience. And when he was out there, there were a couple miscommunications early, but I thought he steadied us and made some good decisions.
Evans played 31 minutes against UNC and had 6 assists, both career highs. Junior guards Mustapha Farrakhan and Jeff Jones played only 9 and 3 minutes, respectively.
LIGHTS OUT: With apologies to UVa’s Mike Scott, who’s 2 for 2 from beyond the arc, the ACC’s most accurate 3-point shooter, among players who average at least two treys per game, is his teammate Sammy Zeglinski.
Zeglinski, a redshirt sophomore from Philadelphia, was 5 for 8 from 3-point range against UNC. For the season, he’s 45 for 96 (46.9 percent). Second in the ACC is Maryland senior Eric Hayes (45.1 percent).
After hitting at least two 3-pointers in 11 consecutive games, Zeglinski went 0 for 3 from beyond the arc in UVa’s loss at Wake. He rediscovered his touch late against Virginia Tech, hitting a trey to force overtime and then another in the extra period.
Against Carolina, he made four 3-pointers in the second half.
“Tonight they went in, and I feel like I’m going in the right direction with it,” Zeglinski said.
STRONG STUFF: The five recruits who signed with UVa in November include Will Regan, a 6-9 post player from Buffalo.
Regan is a senior at Nichols School, where Christian Laettner starred before becoming an All-American at Duke.
In 2008-09, Regan became only the seventh 11th-grader to be named player of the year in western New York, joining an elite club that also includes Laettner and Jonny Flynn.
Regan turned in two stellar performances over the weekend. In a 71-66 loss to Jamesville-DeWitt on Friday night, he made two treys and finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds.
Two days later, in a 65-43 rout of Albany Academy, Regan totaled 19 points and 22 boards.
NO-BRAINER: To the surprise of no one, UVa’s Sylven Landesberg was named ACC player of the week Monday. Landesberg had 29 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 blocked shot against UNC.
The 6-6 sophomore made 11 of 18 shots from the floor, so Landesberg “was very, very efficient,” Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said Monday. “And he’s hard to guard. He’s 6-5, 6-6, he can handle the ball, he can get into a crowd and take the bumps and the contact and still be able to finish a play.
“He had a lot of things going for him last night.”
Added N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe: “What you’re seeing is one of the best players in our conference, in Landesberg, taking over games. He’s doing exactly what the best players do: They take over games and they make big plays.”
The Wahoos (4-2, 13-6) host the Wolfpack (2-5, 14-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. ESPNU will televise the rematch of UVa’s Jan. 9 win at State.
As it heads into its second meeting with Virginia, N.C. State has yet to face Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Miami or Boston College this season. UVa has yet to play Maryland, Florida State, Clemson, Duke or Boston College.
“I guess it’s a computer maybe that’s spitting this schedule out,” Lowe said. “but you would think that, yeah, you would play everyone at least once before you start playing teams twice. But we have no control over that, so we just have to play the schedule they give us.”
UNSUNG HEROES: To Bennett, center Jerome Meyinsse and forward Will Sherrill are “X-factor guys. They’re willing to do whatever is necessary.”
Meyinsse is a 6-9 senior from Baton Rouge, La. Sherrill, a walk-on, is a 6-9 junior from Manhattan, N.Y. Both rank among the program’s top students. Neither had played a prominent role on the team before this season.
In his first three seasons, all under Bennett’s predecessor, Dave Leitao, Meyinsse appeared in 58 games but started only one of them.
That was one more than Sherrill, who played a total of 31 minutes in his first two seasons at Virginia.
Both have earned spots in Bennett’s rotation. Meyinsse has started 12 games and averages 4.9 points and 3.9 rebounds. He’s shooting 60 percent from the floor, but statistics don’t always reflect his value to the team.
“He’s willing to serve his teammates,” Bennett said. “He will work to get them open, screen and re-screen. I put him and Will in the same breath. They do what’s necessary to help certain guys get opportunities, and then play off those.”
Sherrill has started six games and averages 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds. Meyinsse averages 19.4 minutes and Sherrill 16.8.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: In their loss to Virginia Tech, the ‘Hoos squandered a 10-point lead in the final three minutes of regulation. However painful that collapse might have been, Bennett didn’t hesitate to talk about it as UVa prepared to face defending NCAA champion North Carolina.
“He said, ‘Most teams would come out and be flat,'” Meyinsse recalled late Sunday night. “He just told us, ‘We have to come out, we have to fight, we have to show we can recover from that and come out and play well,’ and I think we did that today.”
Still, when the Tar Heels cut their deficit from 21 points to 14 late in the second half, UVa’s players couldn’t help flashing back, if only briefly, to the Virginia Tech game.
“We thought about it,” Evans said, “but Coach was like, ‘We were here before, and this time we’re going to do it right.’ We stuck together, we were mentally strong, we were smart out there, and we got the win.”
Landesberg said: “It was scary. There were a few games where we were up a lot and we let the lead go. We knew that being up 20 didn’t mean anything, especially against North Carolina. We wanted to just keep that lead, and we did. The main thing that helped us out was playing great defense.”