By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The Maryland men’s basketball team that Virginia Tech whipped Jan. 20 came into John Paul Jones Arena and pummeled UVa on Thursday night.
That’s the same UVa team that in December defeated Virginia Tech — in Blacksburg, no less — and last weekend handled Georgia Tech. That’s the same Georgia Tech team that crushed North Carolina, which barely beat UVa.
Welcome to the ACC, version 2010-11, where the outcomes of games not involving Duke are difficult to predict. There was no reason to believe Maryland would embarrass Virginia in the first of their two regular-season meetings, but that’s what happened before a stunned crowd of 10,257.
With 18 minutes to play, this was a two-point game, the Terrapins leading 26-24. When the final horn sounded, the Terps were up 66-42 — their largest margin of victory in this town since 1930, when they won 54-20.
Not since March 5, 1998, when the Wahoos lost 63-41 to Duke in the ACC tournament, had they scored fewer points than they did Thursday night. Virginia’s previous low this season was 47 in a loss to Iowa State at JPJ.
“I am kind of shocked,” UVa point guard Jontel Evans said. “I never thought we’d lose by 24. I felt like we could have won this game tonight, but we didn’t have the grit, we didn’t have the intensity or the energy. We just let them come in here and bully us.”
What made the rout more surprising was that the ‘Hoos (2-4, 11-9) held all-ACC candidate Jordan Williams to 4 points and 6 rebounds, ending his run of 13 consecutive double-doubles. He came in averaging 17.6 points and 12.1 boards.
“Virginia did a great job of taking away Jordan Williams,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “Nobody had done that like that this year.”
Jordan Williams’ teammates made UVa pay for its focus on the 6-10, 260-pound sophomore. Senior guard Adrian Bowie went 3 for 5 from beyond the arc and scored a season-high 22 points.
“The Adrian Bowie we’d seen on film was a guy that penetrated,” Evans said. “I didn’t know he was a big-time shooter. He came out and shot the lights out tonight. That shocked me, and I think it shocked my teammates too.”
Two other Terps — freshman point guard Pe’Shon Howard and senior swingman Cliff Tucker — combined for 22 points off the bench.
“Looking at [Williams’] stat line, you’d say, ‘OK, I wouldn’t have guessed that outcome,'” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “But they’ve got some experienced players that certainly stepped up and hit some shots, and then once they got their momentum, it really was hard for us, and the turnovers really hurt us, with some of the buckets off of that. Seventeen points off of turnovers.”
Six of UVa’s 15 turnovers went on the stat line of center Assane Sene, who before Thursday night had not had more than three in a college game.
“I did some silly turnovers, some turnovers that really hurt the team,” Sene said. “That was just a learning process. I’m just going to learn from it and not repeat it again.”
Those errors notwithstanding, the 7-0, 239-pound junior was a force in the low post. Sene led the defensive effort against Jordan Williams and finished with career-high 15 rebounds to go with 5 points and 1 blocked shot.
“He did some good things on the glass,” Bennett said. “He did some good things defensively, and we’ll just keep working with him [on offense].”
It was tough for Bennett to say which disappointed him more, his team’s defense or its offense. Maryland (3-3, 13-7) shot 68 percent from the floor in the second half and 54 percent for the game. The Terps shot better from 3-point range (7 for 15) than the ‘Hoos did from the line (6 for 13).
From the floor, UVa was 16 for 48 and did not have a player who scored in double figures. In its first game since hitting 10 of 15 attempts from 3-point range against Georgia Tech, Virginia went 4 for 17 versus Maryland.
The Cavaliers “had been handling the ball well and running probably as good an offense as anyone in the league,” Gary Williams said. “We were able to disrupt that a little bit tonight with our defense. That’s not something that you really plan on. You hope that you can do it going into the game. We did a good job with it tonight. I think our intensity level, defensively, was good for the whole 40 minutes.”
Sene was 2 for 4 from the floor, and Evans was 2 for 5. UVa’s other starters — swingman Joe Harris and guards Mustapha Farrakhan and KT Harrell — were a combined 8 for 29.
The Terps “play good defense,” Bennett said. “They get a hand in your face, they slow you down with their three-quarter-court press or their full-court press. But we did get some pretty good rhythm looks at times. Were we going to go 10 of 15? Probably not. But we needed to hit a few more of those rhythm shots.”
With 4:43 left in the first half, UVa went up 18-17 on a free throw by Sene. The rest of the half was a disaster for the ‘Hoos, and they went into the break fortunate to not be down more than five points.
Early in the second half, Virginia closed to 26-24 on a free throw by Harrell. Bowie answered for Maryland to make it 28-24. Then came a pivotal sequence.
Evans missed a driving layup that would have cut Virginia’s deficit to two. Maryland rebounded the miss and started a fast break that ended with Bowie 3-pointer. A UVa turnover followed, and Bowie turned his steal into a layup that made it 33-24.
After Harrell missed a jumper, Maryland’s Dino Gregory scored. Just like that it was 35-24, and the Cavaliers’ meltdown was only beginning.
“I thought offensively and defensively we weren’t aggressive,” senior forward Will Sherrill said. “We didn’t attack their press. We were hesitant against their press. I just think that we were playing tight, and I think by and large they just kind of punked us, especially in that second half. They just kind of wanted to play harder than we did.”
Farrakhan, who had scored in double figures in each of UVa’s previous games, had 8 points, as did Harris. But Harris, who came in averaging 10.3 points, didn’t take a shot until the 7:40 mark of the first half, when he made a trey.
“It was kind of just a weird situation,” Harris said. “Obviously I felt like I should have been a little bit more aggressive … I waited too long, even into the second half. I waited until 10 minutes to go until I started being more aggressive with the basketball. I give a lot of credit to Maryland. Their defense they played it pretty well, and they obviously did a lot of scouting.”
Evans came into the game having missed 11 straight field-goal attempts, dating to the first half of Virginia’s Jan. 19 game at Boston College. He missed his first shot against Maryland but made his second. Evans later sank a 3-pointer, only the fifth trey of his college career.
Overall, though, Virginia’s shooting was dreadful.
“I can live with guys missing quality shots, but there were some we needed to finish,” Bennett said. “We had a chance to maybe get into the game in the second half. Too many point-blank shots at the rim that we missed. And I thought once again our offensive struggles spilled over into our defensive ability to play the whole possession and finish it out.”
The Cavaliers have no time to feel sorry for themselves. They’ll board a bus Friday afternoon and head to Winston-Salem, N.C. At 4 p.m. Saturday, Virginia meets Wake Forest (0-5, 7-13), the only ACC team without a conference victory.
“We used the terminology before the Georgia Tech game of how you’re like a door-to-door salesman who’s gotta keep knocking,” Bennett said. “And now we’re a traveling salesman, and you gotta keep knocking. We’re on the road. You can’t get too high after a nice win or too low after a really tough loss like this.”