Shane Larkin

VIDEO: Defensive miscues cost Virginia season-defining win

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Losing on the road to the No. 2 team in the country can hardly be considered a bad loss.

For anyone.

If No. 1 Indiana went down to Coral Gables tomorrow and lost to No. 2 Miami, you would have a tough time convincing me that would be anything to be concerned about. So when Virginia loses in Miami, I have a tough time thinking that it would have any kind of negative impact on their NCAA tournament profile.

But that doesn’t mean that the Cavaliers aren’t going to be frustrated as they head back to Charlottesville after Tuesday night’s 54-50 loss to the No. 2 team in the country, because Tony Bennett’s team had a golden opportunity to pick up a win that could have done wonders in solidifying a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“Frustrating would be an understatement,” UVA’s Joe Harris told the Washington Post. “It was just unfortunate that maybe a mental miscue or two happened there at the end, especially when we played so hard defensively and made it so tough on them the whole game.”

The mental miscues Harris is referring to showed up four times in the final minute, and essentially cost Virginia a chance at their biggest win of the season. First, after tying the game with 57 seconds left on a three by Harris from the corner, Virginia’s defense broke down and allowed Miami point guard Shane Larkin a free lane to the rim and a layup with 42 seconds left to give the Hurricanes a 48-46 lead. On the ensuing possession, Harris drew a foul, but missed the second free throw. Evan Nolte made up for that mistake after two Miami free throws, hitting a deep three to once again tie the game at 50.

But Miami still had 14 seconds left, which was just enough time for UVA’s defense to breakdown again. Larking came off of a high-ball screen from Kadji and was double-teamed. He picked up his dribble, and looked at Kadji, who was left open at the top of the key, just long enough to get two UVA defenders to run at him, leaving Reggie Johnson wide-open under the basket:

Without the benefit of a timeout, UVA rushed the inbounds and the pass was picked off by Durand Scott.

He hit two free throws. Game over.

Virginia played arguably their best game of the season against the Hurricanes just 72 hours after a disastrous defensive performance against North Carolina landed them their first loss to a top 100 opponent this season. That those same defensive lapses showed back up in crunch-time and cost the Cavs a chance at a season-defining win will sting.

You see, Virginia has one of the more frustrating profiles in the country. They have six really good wins, including going into the Kohl Center and knocking off Wisconsin. But they also have six really bad losses, going 0-3 against the CAA and dropping a game to Old Dominion, who is currently slotted in the 300’s in the RPI.

They needed this win and didn’t get it.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.