By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — UVa men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett had more issues to address than time to address them all in practice Monday.
Bennett’s team flew Friday night to Milwaukee, Wis., where Virginia met Marquette in a closed scrimmage the next day.
Before he departed for the state of his birth, Bennett said he expected the scrimmage, which included morning and afternoon sessions, to reveal much about his team.
“It revealed our youth and inexperience,” Bennett said Monday evening. “At times there were some positive things, but it revealed that in terms of the ability to sustain a high level of basketball, we’re not there yet.
“We had stretches that were good, moments that were good, some individual performances that were good. But when you go and play that many games, that intense, that long, you have to sustain it.”
The Wahoos finished 15-16 in 2009-10, their first season under Bennett. In 2008-09, they went 10-18. Only once in the past nine seasons has UVa advanced to the NCAA tournament.
The Golden Eagles, by contrast, are coming off a season in which they went 22-12 and made their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAAs.
“They’ve created that culture,” Bennett said, so “it was valuable for us.”
Under NCAA rules, no statistics or scores can be released from closed scrimmages, so Bennett could not divulge many details about his team’s performance on the court in Milwaukee. But he was pleased that his newcomers — seven in all, including walk-on Thomas Rogers — got to experience their first road trip as college players.
“Just to get a feel for it,” Bennett said. “We watched film before, treated it like a game and did all those things.”
With junior guard Sammy Zeglinski recovering from knee surgery, six of UVa’s 11 healthy scholarship players are freshmen. The Golden Eagles are more experienced and posed different challenges than what UVa’s first-year players are accustomed to facing in practice.
“We saw probably more team quickness and speed and physicalness than we could replicate, perhaps,” said Bennett, whose team returned to practice Monday after taking Sunday off.
“They’re very aggressive, so it was good to go against that. They really pressure the ball. They just make it hard for you, and they really run in transition. We practice at a certain level, but now we can say, ‘Look, this is what happened when you didn’t hustle back or you weren’t sound with the ball.’
“Because a couple things that we talk about that will be important for us really stuck out. We didn’t shoot free throws well, but whenever we gave up transition buckets or had careless turnovers or [allowed] second shots, those are the things that we can really point to and show them now on tape and say, ‘This is why we work on these things in practice.’ ”
That senior Mike Scott, the Cavaliers’ top returning scorer and rebounder, will start at power forward is a virtual certainty. At most of the other spots, however, competition continues. Sophomore Jontel Evans and freshman Billy Baron are battling at point guard, junior Assane Sene and freshman James Johnson at center, freshmen Joe Harris and K.T. Harrell and senior Mustapha Farrakhan on the wings.
Harrell shot particularly well in the scrimmage.
“All the young guys had moments, and the veterans, they all had moments,” Bennett said. “It was just a question of consistency. I really did see bright spots, and when we got Mike involved and going, he was productive. That was good.”
The teams practiced half-court possessions and zone defenses and also played full-court games.
“I think all our young guys were exposed to some things that will be very valuable,” Bennett said. “You could see when we saw them going against some of the older kids. I think they’ll be able to draw on that.”
Want to check out the ‘Hoos before the season starts? The opportunity comes Saturday at JPJ. At 4 p.m., UVa will play an exhibition game against Division III Roanoke College.
The exhibition is part of the season-ticket package. For other fans, tickets are $10 and $15.
With the season-opener approaching — William and Mary comes to town Nov. 12 — Bennett hopes to settle on a rotation as soon as possible.
“There’s still competition, but right now we only have five perimeter guys for three spots, so those guys all have to be ready,” Bennett said. “There’s a little more numbers with the forwards and inside guys, so we’ll probably have to whittle that down.”