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December 19, 2012It's very rare to see a team win eight games in a row and still have a coach be as angry with his players as Tony Bennett was following UVa's 75-57 victory over Morgan State on Wednesday night. But he was equal parts livid and disappointed in just about every aspect of his team's performance.
"I thought it was poor," Bennett said of his Virginia's effort. "I thought we were undisciplined. I thought we weren't sound. We didn't respect the game in stretches. Some guys did some good things but the game is meant to be played a certain way for us."
UVa (9-2) held a respectable 37-28 lead at halftime after going without leading scorer Joe Harris and starting point guard Teven Jones for most of the half due to foul trouble.
That lead came in large part because of the way Darion Atkins and Akil Mitchell played inside. Atkins had 13 first-half points along with 3 rebounds and 3 steals while Mitchell had 8 points, 4 boards, and 5 assists.
The Cavaliers had a 14-to-0 advantage over the Bears in second-chance points and had out rebounded them 20-10 in the game's opening half. But the Hoos allowed DeWayne Jackson to score 19 in the first (a record inside John Paul Jones for an opponent) and didn't do much to slow him down in the second.
Jackson went on to finish with 32, tying the record for most points scored by opposing player in JPJA history (Talor Battle had 21 on Nov. 30, 2009.)
The bad news for the Bears was that Jackson was their only player in double figures, no one else scored more than five, and all of the other scorers combined only put up 25 points.
Bennett said Morgan State got too many buckets at the rim in the second half and that was partly why the Bears shot 52 percent from the field.
"I think our guys lost their way a little bit in that game, in my honest opinion," he said plainly.
Though the Cavs were sloppy with the ball in the second half and shot poorly to start at the free-throw line, they rounded into shape. Atkins finished with a career-high 17 points while Mitchell had 15, 12, and 7 (a career high in assists).
Virginia used a 12-2 run that started about five minutes into the half to stretch the lead. Morgan State, which got as close as nine down at one point, never could overtake it.
Still, that didn't mean Virginia should be happy. Far from it in fact.
Within minutes of each other, Bennett and Mitchell both said that the Cavaliers shouldn't "accept in victory what (they) wouldn't in defeat" in describing UVa's lackluster play in the win.
"You can do that in certain games and get away with that," Bennett said of UVa's sloppiness. "But in other games you can't. That thing got down to a single-digit game. It's a lesson.
"It's quality basketball and battling each possession," Bennett added. "In those stretches, you could just see it on both ends of the floor and that's what was disappointing."
Added Mitchell, "He wasn't very happy. We got an earful at halftime and an earful after the game. I kind of expected it. We didn't play up to our potential defensively. I felt like we were a little rusty offensively and we let our defense slide as a result and that can't happen."
Sophomore guard Paul Jesperson, who hit some timely 3-pointers and scored a career-high 11 points, didn't mine words about UVa's effort.
"We were a little rusty and it showed in the first half," Jesperson said. "That first half? We should've been able to get out of that. That was a disappointing game for us. Fortunately, we were able to get the win still but that wasn't the quality of basketball that we should be playing."
Though he only played 21 minutes (down from his average of 30.4), Harris finished with 14 points, all but three of which came in the second half.
As UVa prepares to play in the Governor's Holiday Hoops Classic in Richmond on Saturday, Bennett said the team will have to be a lot more focused when it faces Old Dominion.
"We'll have to play better than we played," Bennett said. "For sure."