The strange thing about Virginia’s loss to Maryland in late January was that the Wahoos executed the main part of their game plan to a tee, holding Jordan Williams to four points — 13 below his season average. The Terrapins’ big man was a non-factor.
The chief reason Virginia got blown out of John Paul Jones Arena that night (besides only scoring 42 points) was because it neglected to guard any of Maryland’s perimeter players in the 24-point loss.
This afternoon in College Park, UVa (15-14, 6-9) will try for a more healthy balance when it closes out its regular season at Maryland (18-12, 7-8). Fresh off its Senior Night win over N.C. State on Tuesday, Virginia will try and spoil the Terrapins’ festivities while putting yet another dent in their NCAA Tournament aspirations (the Terps have lost two in a row).
“Oh man, I can’t wait for that game,” said Virginia big man Assane Sene, who grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds and helped hold Williams in check the first time around. “We’re trying to finish the season really hard. We just have to go in there, play really hard and do what we can do to get that ‘W.’”
Virginia freshman Joe Harris believes Sene’s recent production has been a huge reason for the team’s mini surge — UVa has won three of its last four games.
“He just works so hard on the defensive end,” Harris said, “and then that translates over to the offensive end in getting a lot of rebounds and hustle plays.
“I’m really happy for him because I’ve seen all the hard work he’s put in.”
In Tuesday’s victory, Virginia coach Tony Bennett, mainly because of Senior Night, went with a more conventional starting lineup. He employed a unit that featured senior Will Sherrill at the 4 and chose to bring guard Jontel Evans off the bench.
Given the results, the smart money says Bennett will likely stick with that lineup today. Really, it’s a small miracle that he got away with playing what was essentially a four-guard lineup for as long as he did.
Sene is looking forward to Round 2 with Williams.
“I love to play against [N.C. State’s Tracy Smith] and Williams from Maryland,” he said. “They’re good past players. You just have to play hard against them and at the same time learn from them. They’re [both] strong and can make moves.”
But in the first loss to Maryland, it was the guards, mainly Adrian Bowie, who hurt Virginia the most. The Terrapins shot 54 percent from the field, including 47 percent from 3-point range. Clearly, the Wahoos will need to be more cognizant of the Terps’ perimeter weapons this time around.
“Hopefully,” Harris said, “we get a little bit of redemption.”
Maryland leads the all-time series 106-68, including four of the last five meetings ... Bennett is looking for his 100th career win today. He enters the game with a 99-63 career record (30-30 at Virginia; 69-33 at Washington State).