By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After starting UVa’s first 11 games this basketball season, point guard Jontel Evans came off the bench last Wednesday night against Seattle.
Sammy Zeglinski replaced Evans in the first five. Second-year coach Tony Bennett hoped the move would spark the Cavaliers offensively, but it failed to produce the desired results.
Virginia shot 30.2 percent from the floor in a 59-53 loss to Seattle at John Paul Jones Arena.
“We just couldn’t make a shot when we needed one,” Zeglinski said.
The Wahoos were 2 for 20 from 3-point range. Zeglinski scored 9 points in his 22 minutes and also had 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists and no turnovers. But the 6-1 redshirt junior missed 6 of 7 shots from beyond the arc and 8 of 11 overall.
Evans wasn’t much sharper. In his 23 minutes, the 5-11 sophomore went 1 for 3 from the floor and 2 for 4 from the line, turned the ball over twice and had no assists. So Bennett is not sure how he’ll divide the point-guard minutes Thursday night when UVa (8-4) hosts Iowa State (11-2) at JPJ.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve got a formula exactly like, ‘OK, Sammy’s going to go to X amount of minutes and therefore this will be [the role for] Jontel,’ ” Bennett said on a conference call Tuesday morning.
“Sometimes they’ll play together. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they’ll split minutes. It’s just who’s performing in practice and who I think is giving us the edge we need. It’s not an exact science, that’s for sure.”
Another option at the point is freshman Billy Baron, who scored 19 points in Virginia’s season-opening win over William and Mary and had 14 three nights later against USC Upstate. In the past six games, however, Baron has played a total of 24 minutes.
To Baron, Bennett told reporters Tuesday, “I said, ‘Billy, you just keep staying ready, keep improving. You don’t know when your opportunity is [coming].’ ”
A season ago, Zeglinski started 29 games for the ‘Hoos. Not all were at point guard. In each of Evans’ 11 starts in 2009-10, Zeglinski was the first-team shooting guard.
Would Zeglinski have begun this season as a starter? We’ll never know. He had surgery Oct. 19, to repair cartilage damage in his left knee, and missed Virginia’s first seven games.
In the five games he’s played since his return, Zeglinski has averaged 5.4 points, 2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.4 turnovers, 1.6 steals and 19.2 minutes. He’s shooting only 27.3 percent from the floor (23.1 from 3-point range) and 50 percent from the line.
“He’s not where he needs to be with his stamina and his timing, so that needs to improve,” Bennett said.
Evans’ averages this season: 5.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.5 turnovers, 1.2 steals and 27.1 minutes. He’s made 41.4 percent (24 of 58) of his field-goal attempts — Evans is 1 for 3 on 3-pointers — and 61.3 percent of his free throws.
“I think Jontel has certainly had a good start and done some good things,” Bennett said, “and I expect him to really keep working and keep improving and be an important part of this year.”
To say Bennett was disappointed by his team’s performance against Seattle would be an understatement. He delivered a stern message to his players after he reviewed videotape of the loss.
“I said, ‘Playing time is open. It really is. From interior guys, forwards, to the perimeters, as you show me in practice, as you produce, as you do the things that are important for us, that will determine the opportunities out there,’ ” Bennett recalled Tuesday.
“There’s not this big separation between many of our guys, so [competition] makes practice sharper. I have to be willing to say, ‘All right, this isn’t working, we make adjustments, and we go there.’ ”