By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa’s basketball game with UNC Wilmington, originally scheduled for Dec. 19, wasn’t actually played until Jan. 18.
The wait for the Virginia-Maryland makeup game won’t be nearly as long.
The ACC rivals were supposed to meet last Wednesday in College Park, but treacherous weather conditions in the D.C. area forced a postponement. The game was rescheduled for Monday night, and, barring an unexpected snowstorm, the Cavaliers (5-4, 14-8) will take on the Terrapins (6-3, 16-7) at 8 o’clock.
Both teams played — and lost — on the road Saturday. Maryland got blown out at Duke, and UVa dropped a close game at Virginia Tech.
The Wahoos flew from Roanoke to Baltimore after the game Saturday night, then bused to their hotel in Greenbelt, Md.
Virginia is in the early part of a stretch in which it plays four games in eight days. After facing Maryland, the ‘Hoos return home to host Florida State on Wednesday night, then visit Clemson on Saturday.
“Physically, I hope we’ll be all right,” Tony Bennett said Saturday night when asked about the game at Maryland.
A bigger concern for Virginia’s first-year coach is whether his team can “mentally bounce back and get ourselves ready,” Bennett said. “You’re going into a tough stretch, playing against Maryland. I know they’re coming off a disappointing loss. It’ll be another gut-check time. In this league, there’s no easy ones.”
Games are especially difficult for teams that shoot as poorly as UVa did in Blacksburg. The Cavaliers’ defense was solid, but they made only 21 of 64 field-goal attempts (32.8 percent) in their 61-55 loss to the Hokies. Virginia missed inside, outside and, to make matters worse, from the free-throw line.
“You gotta be able to stick some of those shots,” Bennett said.
Of the Cavaliers who attempted more two shots from the floor, only junior forward Mike Scott (8 of 16) made at least half.
“We got some good looks,” Scott said. “We just couldn’t finish.”
Among ACC teams, Maryland ranks third in field-goal-percentage defense, so good looks may be difficult for UVa to find at Comcast Center. The Terrapins are even better when they have the ball. They lead the ACC in field-goal percentage and rank fourth in free-throw percentage.
The Terps are dangerous from 3-point range, too. Eric Hayes is the league’s most accurate shooter from beyond the arc, and Greivis Vasquez is seventh.
Vasquez, who like Hayes is a senior guard, leads Maryland in scoring (18 ppg) and is capable of dominating games.
“He’s so complete,” Bennett said. “He’s fast and quick. I don’t know if he has the quickness of [Wake point guard] Ish Smith, but he has the size and the ability to pass and shoot and score in a variety of ways.
“He can post you up, so you got a multi-dimensional player that if you lay off in one area, he’ll hurt you in other ways. And he certainly has the energy and the emotion to get his team going. So you’ve got to, with guys like that, figure out ways to make them earn everything and not give them the easy ones.”
Before coming to UVa last spring, Bennett spent six seasons at Washington State — the final three as head coach — so he’s used to quick turnarounds between games. In the Pac-10, teams typically play conference games on Thursdays and Saturdays.
“I think you have to be wise” when it comes to practice time, Bennett said. “Certainly you gotta get ’em prepared, but you have to taper down. At this point in the year you have to. You gotta be mentally sharp. But I think we’ll handle that well. I think we’ve been pretty solid with that, and our guys are pretty fresh. But we’ll see as these games go. You gotta be able to open it up and lay it out there, and hopefully we’ll have enough.”
During the somber postgame scene Saturday night at Cassell Coliseum, sophomore swingman Sylven Landesberg was asked about the challenge facing the Cavaliers this week.
“We just gotta get as much rest as we can,” Landesberg said. “It’s going to be a long stretch. A lot of competitive games coming up. We just gotta come ready mentally and physically.”
The ‘Hoos are seeking their first win in College Park since 2006-07. That was their second season under Dave Leitao, Bennett’s predecessor. No one who scored for UVa in that game is still on the roster.