Aug. 13, 2012

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By Jeff White (

PARIS — In a remarkable turn of events on its home court, the AMW France men’s basketball team hit back-to-back treys Monday night to slash its 13-point deficit to five.

That doesn’t add up in any language, but the protests of University of Virginia representatives went for naught at Stade Pierre de Coubertin. A basket that never was made was credited to AMW France, and the official scorer refused to budge, no matter how vehemently the Cavaliers argued their case. Suddenly it was 49-44 late in the third quarter.

“That was interesting,” UVa junior guard Joe Harris said.

Had either team gone on to win in a blowout, the play might not have mattered much. But with 35 seconds left, UVa had possession trailing 69-67. The Cavaliers got three good looks at the basket — the first by Harris, the second by sophomore forward Darion Atkins, the third by junior forward Akil Mitchell — but none fell. After a miss by AMW France, the Wahoos had one more chance, but a turnover by Harris in the final seconds led to a breakaway layup for the host team, and the game ended 71-67.

Coming off a loss in which they surrendered 102 points to the Belgian club team Gembo in Antwerp, the `Hoos played with palpable passion and effort. That pleased their fourth-year coach, Tony Bennett. The scorekeeping did not.

“I understand when you come here, you’re going to get some questionable officiating. I can handle that,” Bennett said. “But what I don’t appreciate is when they take two points away from us. Two points in a game like that, that changes the whole game, and that’s frustrating, because we were there for the win, and that’s just not the way you do it. I don’t care if you’re international or in the States, you gotta keep the right score. But it’s a mistake, it was done, and I just want our guys to understand what the blueprint is for us to play competitive basketball.”

This was the fourth of the five games UVa will play on its tour of Europe. The finale is Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern — again against AMW France, again at Stade Pierre de Coubertin, which is about a four-minute walk from the Cavaliers’ hotel.

“I know all the guys will be hungry to get back at them,” Mitchell said, “and they’ll be hungry to see us again, so it should be a good matchup.”

Mitchell and Harris led Virginia with 12 points apiece. Mitchell also had a team-high 11 rebounds, the last of which came with about 35 seconds left and the score 69-67. After Harris missed a leaner, Atkins grabbed the rebound and put up a half-hook that rimmed out. Mitchell’s tip attempt was off the mark, too, and AMW France came up with the ball.

“Darion and Akil, they did a good job on the glass, but they gotta finish,” Bennett said. “They’re right there.”

Mitchell said: “I’m still kind of beating myself up about that.”

Harris said: “It was just one of those series. We had a couple putbacks right there and we thought they were going to go in, but the basketball gods just weren’t with us on those plays.”

Senior point guard Jontel Evans added 10 points and led the `Hoos with seven assists. But he came out with 1:41 left after getting poked in the eye and didn’t return. Freshman Taylor Barnette took Evans’ place.

“That was tough,” Bennett said. “Great experience for all these guys to be in there late in the game at those times, but obviously they were having a hard time with Jontel, and that was a big loss for us. Chalk it up to a valuable experience for Taylor.”

With 1:20 left, Barnette passed to sophomore swingman Paul Jesperson, whose second 3-pointer of the game put UVa up 67-66. The lead didn’t last long. AMW France responded with a three-point play 15 seconds later to go up for good.

The loss was the Cavaliers’ third straight on this tour. But there were encouraging signs for a team whose previous two games had been marked by defensive lapses. AMW France, meanwhile, was coming off back-to-back wins over Kansas.

“We played a lot better defensively,” Harris said, “and Coach talked about how at the end of the game how we actually looked like a basketball team … He talked about how [UVa’s performance in Antwerp was] some of the worst basketball that he’s seen as a coach.

“We know that we’re better than what we showed, and we just wanted to come out and show him that and show the rest of the staff that. I felt like we did a good job against a solid team. I mean, they beat Kansas the last two nights. For us to come out here and put ourselves in a spot where we actually could have won the game, or should have won the game, I thought we did a lot better.”

After a bus ride through many of Paris’ historic sections, and a visit to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the team returned to its hotel Monday afternoon to review videotape from its recent games on this trip.

“We watched a lot of film today,” Mitchell said, “and Coach wasn’t happy at all. We just had to move on, and we knew we had to show up better, and I think the guys really showed up well.”

Virginia led 21-12 after one quarter and 36-30 at halftime against a team that included Washington Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin, who’s listed at 6-9, 275 pounds on that team’s website.

Seraphin, who had 16 points and six rebounds Sunday night against Kansas, scored only two points in AMW France’s first game versus Virginia. The Cavaliers’ freshman center, Mike Tobey, challenged Seraphin the first time they were matched up in the post and scored on a strong post move.

“He did some good things,” Bennett said of the 7-foot Tobey, who had only one rebound but finished with 12 points.

As for the only NBA player on the court, “I think Seraphin is just using this to get a little cardio in,” Bennett said. “He’s not playing the way he would normally play in the NBA, but it’s still good for our guys to go [against him], and they understand that if they didn’t come out and play, they would have had trouble tonight.”

AMW France was significantly taller and more athletic than either of the first two opponents UVa faced on this tour. (Virginia played the Netherlands B team twice and Gembo once.)

Just kind of night and day,” Mitchell said. “I guess this team’s a little bit more Americanized. It was two different types of challenges.”

Bennett said his players “had a clue of what transition defense was tonight. That was emphasized, and on the things we really tried to emphasize, we were acceptable in those areas.”

UVa’s starters Monday were Tobey, Mitchell, Jesperson, Harris and Evans, the third different lineup Bennett has opened with on this tour.

Virginia scoring: Mitchell 12, Harris 12, Tobey 12, Evans 10, Jesperson 9, Atkins 8, Anderson 2, Nolte 2, Barnette 0.

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