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.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.