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