Reggie Bullock

UVA cools Heels, wins ACC opener

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Charlottesville — The Tar Heels are used to moving fast. They came into John Paul Jones arena as an unsurprising No. 1 in the nation in adjusted tempo. Virginia, on the other hand, was 343rd in the same stat. It was a classic unstoppable force vs. immovable object kind of game. The game ended up in the realm of 61 possessions for both teams, and that made it Virginia’s type of game. One of the NBA scouts in attendance — I’ll call him Jim Cardaway — seemed visibly annoyed with the frequent stagnation of the UNC offense.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Cavaliers held sway, winning 61-52 to take their ACC opener. The score represented Carolina’s season low on offense.

Most young teams make mistakes when they start moving too fast. For the UNC Tar Heels, the reverse almost seems to be true. Give a Heel time to think about what he’s doing on offense these days, and he’s likely to travel, hesitate a moment too long and let the lane close or miss his wide-open pivot man.

“In a physical game, it’s hard to get out and run as much,” said UVA head coach Tony Bennett. “But we tried to be vigilant and make them play against the set defense.”

Both teams were bolstered by the return of valued players. Reggie Bullock made a flashy comeback for the Heels, scoring 22 points on 7-9 shooting. UVA’s returnee was quieter, but no less important. Jontel Evans, back after sitting the last nine games for the Cavaliers, tallied just eight points, but his presence meant a lot to his team.

“It helped a lot,”  said UVA head coach Tony Bennett. “He’s not where he needs to be defensively, but as an older guy he was able to body Paige a few times.”

Virginia’s offensive spark came from 6’5″ swingman Joe Harris, who was the only Cavalier in double figures. He dropped 19 points on 7-11 shooting, including 2-4 from deep.

UNC’s freshman point guard Marcus Paige admitted after the game that UVA’s persistent, jarring screens threw the Tar Heels off their rhythm. Paige’s clear-headed analysis of his team’s flaws was echoed by his head coach, who assessed the game in terms only Roy Williams can, or will, use:

“Just silliness,” said a disgusted Williams in the post-game press conference. “You can’t say you’re young any more. It was a breakdown on both ends of the court. ACC basketball on the road and all that are great excuses, but we just didn’t frickin’ play.”

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.