Virginia vs. VMI Preview

December 22, 1997 at 7:30 p.m.
University Hall
Charlottesville, Va.

The Series vs. VMI

The Cavaliers own a 94-15 advantage in the all-time series against VMI that dates back to the 1908-09 season.

Virginia has won the last 17 meetings between the two schools, the Cavaliers' second-longest winning streak of the series. After dropping consecutive meetings in 1942 and 1943, Virginia reeled of 32 wins in a row over the Keydets from 1943-1960. That is a school record for most consecutive wins over an opponent.

Virginia's 94 wins against VMI are by far its most over any opponent. Next is Virginia Tech, who Virginia has beaten 67 times.

VMI has not beaten Virginia since gaining a 95-75 win in Lexington, Va., on December 9, 1964. Cavalier head coach Jeff Jones was four years old at the time. Monte Marcaccini, the oldest player on this year's UVa team, wasn't born until 10 years later.

Virginia won at home 100-73 during the 1994-95 season in the most recent contest between the two schools.

The Cavaliers are 10-0 against the Keydets at University Hall.

Shooting Well vs. Keydets

The Cavaliers have won their last 17 games against VMI, due in part to their outstanding shooting. During this streak, stretching back more than 30 years, Virginia is shooting 51.4 percent from the field, while the Keydets shoot 38.1 percent.

In the 11 games since 1972-73, Virginia has topped 47 percent in every game, including shooting 50 percent or better eight times. The Cavaliers have made at least half of their shots in the last seven meetings vs. VMI dating back to the 1982-83 season and are shooting 53.8 percent during this period.

Non-Conference Teams at University Hall

Virginia is 121-11 (.917) at home against non-conference opponents since Jeff Jones came to UVa as a freshman in 1978-79.

The Cavaliers had their 12-game home non-conference winning streak snapped by Connecticut 12 days ago.

Under Jeff Jones' direction the Cavaliers are 44-6 (.880) at U-Hall against non-conference teams.

The Cavaliers have won 44 of their last 49 home games against non-conference opponents dating back to Jones' first year as head coach in 1990-91.

Virginia is 167-25 (.870) all-time in University Hall against non-conference opponents since the building opened for the 1965-66 season.

Virginia vs. In-State Teams

This is the Cavaliers' fifth game this season against an in-state opponent and the second in a row. So far this season the Cavaliers have defeated William & Mary, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth, and lost to Richmond among state teams.

UVa hasn't lost more than one game in a season to state schools since the 1987-88 season when the Cavaliers were 1-3 vs. state foes.

Since Jeff Jones arrived on the Grounds of the University as a first-yearman in 1978-79, the Cavaliers are 81-13 (.862) at all sites against in-state opponents. His record as head coach against state schools is 28-5 (.848).

Virginia vs. the Southern Conference

This is Virginia's second game of the season against a school from the Southern Conference. The Cavaliers defeated Appalachian State 62-54 earlier this month in Charlottesville.

Virginia was one of the 13 original members of the "old" Southern Conference from 1922-37 and has a long and rich history of competition against the Southern Conference.

Almost an original member of the conference, VMI joined the league in 1926 and is its oldest current member.

Against the 11 current members of the Southern Conference, the Cavaliers are 108-19 all-time. Most of the games were against VMI--a series Virginia leads 94-15. The Cavaliers are 2-0 vs. The Citadel, 1-0 vs. Appalachian State and East Tennessee State, and 10-4 against Davidson.

Of the Southern Conference's current membership, Virginia has never faced Chattanooga, Furman, Georgia Southern, North Carolina-Greensboro, Western Carolina or Wofford.

There have been 38 other schools besides UVa that have been members of the Southern Conference at one time or another since 1922. These schools include many current members of the Southeastern Conference and the ACC. Virginia is 268-244 (.523) against these schools at the time they were in the Southern Conference.

In-State Teams at University Hall

University Hall has gained a well-deserved reputation as a tough place to play, particularly for in-state schools. Old Dominion and Richmond (two wins each) are the only state schools with more than one win at University Hall, while Virginia Tech and William& Mary each have won once at U-Hall.

VMI has never won in 10 trips to University Hall.

Since University Hall opened on November 25, 1965, the Cavaliers have compiled a 64-6 (.914) record against state schools on the hardwood at U-Hall.

Virginia has won 41 consecutive home games against in-state teams. The Cavaliers' last loss to a state team at University Hall was a 65-61 loss to Old Dominion on December 2, 1978.

Opponents Shoot Blanks at University Hall

Virginia is 26-5 against non-conference opponents at University Hall over the last five seasons. Among the reasons the Cavaliers have been so successful in non-conference games is their ability to out-shoot and out-rebound the other team.

In their wins, the Cavaliers have shot 45.0 percent from the field compared to 36.1 percent for the opposition. Virginia also out-rebounds the other team by more than 10 rebounds per game (45.6/g to 34.0/g).

In contrast, the tables are turned in Virginia's home losses. The opponents shoot much better than Virginia (41.5 percent vs. 34.9 percent) and out-rebound the Cavaliers by a wide margin (46.0/g to 34.4/g).

The two highest shooting percentages by non-conference opponents on Virginia's home floor the last five seasons have come in Virginia losses. Ohio shot 47.4 percent from the floor in a 94-83 win during the 1994-95 season, while Connecticut shot 46.3 percent in winning the 1993-94 season opener.

Only nine of the last 31 non-conference opponents to come to University Hall have managed to make more than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

Turnovers Kill Cavaliers in Two Recent Losses

In its last two losses--to Duke, ranked #1 at the time, and Connecticut--Virginia was hurt in large part by turnovers.

In both contests the Cavaliers out-rebounded the opposition, shot a combined 43.4 percent from the field and allowed just two opposing starters in each game to score in double figures, but were unable to overcome an inability to hold onto the ball.

The Cavaliers committed a season-high 28 miscues against Duke in losing 103-59. After scoring the game's first two points, Virginia turned the ball over on six of its next seven possessions as Duke scored 13 unanswered points. For the game, Duke scored 34 points off turnovers.

Virginia turned the ball over 19 times against Connecticut and the Huskies scored 16 points off turnovers in a 74-63 win 12 days ago.

The Cavaliers got back on the winning track against Virginia Commonwealth by exercising great care in handling the ball, committing a season-low 10 miscues.

Nonetheless, the Cavaliers have not done a particularly good job of protecting the basketball, averaging 18.1 turnovers per game.

Earlier in the season the Cavaliers had 27 turnovers in a 60-45 win over George Mason.

In six of eight games this season, Virginia has had more turnovers than assists. Oddly, the two games in which the Cavaliers had more assists than turnovers have occurred at the Robins Center on the campus of the University of Richmond. Against Richmond in a season-opening loss, Virginia had 13 assists and 12 turnovers. The Cavaliers had 15 assists and a season-low 10 turnovers against VCU there the last time out.

A Helping "Hand" Off the Bench

Freshman point guard Donald Hand opened the season in the starting line-up, before giving way to Chezley Watson for four games.

Hand returned to the starting five against Duke on December 6, but was replaced in the starting line-up by Pete McLaughlin in the last two games (Connecticut, VCU).

As has been the case early this season, Hand seemed to play better in the last two games off the bench.

Against Connecticut, he responded with eight points and a team-leading six assists in 30 minutes against the nation's 13th-ranked club.

He scored just four points against VCU, but added four steals and two assists in 22 minutes to help the Cavaliers get back in the win column after two straight losses.

Hand's top-three scoring performances, his four-longest stints and his four top assist totals have all come in games when he has come off the bench.

A look at his starting vs. relief statistics are below.

                Pts.    Rebs.   Ast.    TO  Stl.    Min.
starter (2)     2.5     1.5     1.5     3.5 1.0     15.5
reserve (6)     5.3     2.3     3.5     2.8 2.0     20.3
Season          4.6     2.1     3.0     3.0 1.8     19.1
Field Goal Shooting Improves this Season

Virginia has not been known recently for its field goal shooting proclivity, but so far this season the Cavaliers are shooting 44.4 percent from the field. This is a marked improvement from last season's mark of 42.7 percent.

Virginia has topped the 40-percent mark in every game this season. The season high is 46.6 percent vs. Virginia Commonwealth in the last game, while the low is 41.4 percent vs. Connecticut, ranked 13th at game time.

Last season the Cavaliers topped 45 percent 12 times in 31 games, and shot less than 40 percent from the field in 10 contests.

Already this season Virginia has topped 45 percent five times.

If the Cavaliers can keep going at their current rate this season, it would mark their best percentage since the 1990-91 squad shot 45.5 percent from the field.

Nolan and Staples Provide Scoring Punch

As Virginia's leading returning scorers, it is no surprise that Norman Nolan and Curtis Staples have carried the scoring load this season.

Through the first eight games one of the two has led Virginia in scoring in each game.

Staples leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.8 points per game. He ranks fifth in the ACC in scoring through games of December 18.

He paced the Cavaliers the last time out with 20 points in a 73-67 win over Virginia Commonwealth.

Staples got the year off right by tossing in 26 points against Richmond and 15 vs. William & Mary in the first two games. He connected on five three-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points in the win over George Mason on November 22. He paced the Cavaliers again with 19 points vs. Delaware.

Nolan is hot on Staples' heels in the scoring race, averaging 17.2 ppg, sixth in the ACC through games of December 18.

He scored a career-high 31 points to lead UVa against Richmond in the season opener and paced the Cavaliers again with 17 points vs. William & Mary in the second game.

Nolan led the team in scoring in three recent contests with 17 points against Appalachian State, 19 points vs. top-ranked Duke and 16 vs. Connecticut.

Between them, Staples and Nolan have scored more than half of Virginia's points this season (280 of 519).

Staples Works on the Boards

Curtis Staples has a well-deserved reputation as one of the nation's top long-range shooters, but an overlooked aspect of his game is his rebounding ability.

Standing just 6-3, Staples is second on the team in rebounding this season with a 6.0 rebounding average. His average should come as no surprise as his 4.6 rpg mark was second among ACC guards last season.

He tied his career high with a team-leading nine caroms against Delaware on November 25. He nearly equalled that performance with eight rebounds against Duke on December 6. His eight rebounds were more than any Duke player had in the game.

In the last 30 years, Cornel Parker is the only Cavalier perimeter player to average more than five rebounds per game in a season. A 6-7 swingman, Parker averaged 6.9 boards per game in 1992-93.

Bench Plays Big Role in Recent Wins

The contributions from Virginia's reserves have been increasing in recent games and the bench has contributed significantly in the Cavaliers' last three wins--over Delaware, Appalachian State and VCU.

Colin Ducharme came off the bench against Delaware and turned in a solid performance to help the Cavaliers down the homestanding Blue Hens. He scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds as Virginia won a tight contest 64-57.

Ducharme played another key role in the 62-54 win over Appalachian State. He scored 14 points and hauled in a career-high 11 rebounds in just 23 minutes.

Donald Hand also turned in perhaps his best game against the Mountaineers with a career-high eight assists and eight points. He also snatched four rebounds and made three steals.

Two players recorded career scoring highs in the win over VCU nine days ago--Willie Dersch and Kris Hunter.

Dersch started the first seven games of the season, but has hit a rough patch lately and came off the bench against the Rams. He responded with career highs in several categories including points (13), rebounds (seven), blocked shots (two) and steals (two). His scoring output was particularly notable since he had gone scoreless in the previous two games.

Hunter also turned in several career bests including points (six), blocked shots (two), and steals and assists (one each), while playing 12 minutes in the longest stint of his career. He got the crowd excited shortly after entering the contest with a follow slam dunk off a miss by Curtis Staples.

Even when the Cavaliers have lost recently, the bench has contributed by scoring points and rebounding.

The bench's recent production is shown below.

            FGs     Rebs.   Pts.    Ast.    Stls.   Min.
Delaware    7-18    14      21      3       3       65
App. State  11-20   21      29      10      4       77
Duke        5-13    17      15      3       1       61
UConn       9-18    14      23      10      2       77
VCU         10-28   17      30      8       7       98
Last 5 avg. 43.3%   16.6    23.6    6.8     3.4     75.6
Staples 27th Player in NCAA History to 300

Curtis Staples is known as one of the top three-point shooters in the nation. So far this season he is living up to his reputation. He is second in the nation, averaging 4.0 three-pointers per game.

He has led the Cavaliers in scoring three times, reaching the 20-point plateau all three times.

Staples has tossed in at least five three-pointers in three games this season, including a season-best seven threes in the opener against Richmond. In that game he connected on seven of 15 from behind the arc and scored 26 points.

He pumped in five three-pointers in the first half in the last game against VCU, finishing the game with six threes and leading Virginia with 20 points.

Staples became the 27th player in NCAA history to make 300 career three-pointers with his three against Delaware.

The ACC leader in three-point field goals made the last three seasons, Staples is tied for 18th in NCAA history for career three-pointers (315) and 17th in three-point attempts (821).

Staples is fourth in ACC history in three-pointers made, but is closing fast on the top spot.

His place on the NCAA and ACC career three-point lists are below.

NCAA/ACC    Player,        school,  years       3FGM
6.  1.      Dennis Scott, Ga. Tech, 1988-90     351
11. 2.      R. Childress, W. Forest, 91, 93-95  329
15. 3.      Rodney Monroe, N.C. State, 1988-91  322
16.         Kent Culuko, James Madison, 1992-95 320
17.         Bernard Haslett, So. Miss., 1991-94 316
18. 4.      Curtis Staples, Virginia, 1995-98   315
            Terry Dehere, Seton Hall, 1990-93   315
Nolan Paces Cavaliers in Early Going

Senior forward Norman Nolan has been Virginia's primary inside scorer for the last three years.

He led the team in scoring on eight occasions last season, the third-best mark on the team.

So far this season he's displaying a strong inside game on both ends of the court, leading the team in scoring five times and in rebounding four times.

He was a one-man wrecking crew for the Cavaliers in their loss to Richmond in the season opener on November 16. He scored a career-high 31 points, including one stretch where he scored 19 consecutive points for the Cavaliers. He also recorded his 11th career "double double" by pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds.

He turned in his second consecutive "double double" against William & Mary, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

He posted his third consecutive "double double" against George Mason with 13 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

Saddled with early foul trouble against Delaware, Nolan scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds in only 18 minutes of play. He scored two important baskets in the closing minutes to help the Cavaliers hold off the homestanding Blue Hens.

He returned to the "double double" column with a game-high 17 points and 10 rebounds to help the Cavaliers down Appalachian State 62-54 on December 2.

One of the few bright spots in Virginia's 103-59 loss at top-ranked Duke, Nolan scored a team-leading 19 points.

He paced the Cavaliers in both points (16) and rebounds (11) against #13 Connecticut 12 days ago.

Nolan is averaging 17.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game this season, while shooting 52.7 percent from the field. He is fourth in the ACC in rebounding and field goal percentage, and sixth in scoring through games of December 18.

Two Rookies Start at Point Guard This Season

Head coach Jeff Jones has had a succession of rookie point guards in his eight years at the helm of the Cavalier program. The last two players to see significant action at point guard for Virginia both started as freshmen--Cory Alexander and Harold Deane. This season alone has seen the Cavaliers start two different freshmen point guards--Donald Hand and Chezley Watson.

Hand won the preseason battle with Watson for the starting nod at point guard and started the season opener against Richmond on November 16.

Jones shuffled the line-up a bit for the William & Mary game, starting Watson at point guard. Watson stayed in the starting line-up for the three contests immediately after that, but Hand returned as the starter against Duke on Dec. 6.

Alexander took over the reins from John Crotty as a freshman in 1991-92, Jones' second season as UVa's head coach, and helped lead the Cavaliers to the NIT championship.

When Alexander broke his ankle in the opener of the 1993-94 season, Deane immediately stepped into the line-up and started 27 of 31 games that season.

An historical footnote shows that Jones started 13 games at point guard as a Cavalier freshman in 1978-79.

Three See Starting Action at the Point Lately

Head coach Jeff Jones has started three different players at point guard this season--changing in three consecutive games recently.

Freshman Donald Hand started in the season opener against Richmond, but was replaced in the line-up by fellow rookie Chezley Watson in the next game.

Watson remained in the starting line-up for four games before giving the nod back to Hand against Duke.

Hand's stint as the starter was short-lived as he was replaced by Pete McLaughlin for the game against Connecticut. McLaughlin remained in the starting five in the last game against VCU.

Nolan Leads ACC in "Double Doubles"

Senior forward Norman Nolan is off to the best start of his career this season. Counted on to carry the scoring and rebounding load inside for the Cavaliers, he is excelling in both areas.

He is among the top-10 in the ACC in scoring--sixth, averaging 17.2 ppg--and in rebounding--fourth, averaging 8.5 rpg through games of December 18.

Nolan leads the ACC with five "double doubles" in just eight games. He is the first Cavalier to record five "double doubles" in a seven-game span (first seven games of the season) since Junior Burrough ended his stellar collegiate career with five in seven games to end the 1994-95 season.

Nolan had a career-high six "double doubles" last season and has 15 for his career.

Virginia Wins with Defense

Virginia has built a reputation for outstanding defensive play over the last 20 years and the tradition continues this season.

Richmond scored 83 points in downing the Cavaliers in the season opener, but shot just 33.3 percent from the field.

As good as the Cavaliers' field goal percentage defense was against Richmond, it was even better against William & Mary three days later. The Tribe scored just 45 points, while shooting 28.8 percent from the field.

The Tribe's field goal shooting was the worst percentage by a Virginia opponent in 23 games, dating back to last season's Radford contest (27.9 percent).

George Mason couldn't muster much on the offensive end in Virginia's 60-45 win last month. The Patriots shot just 30.9 percent from the field and committed 23 turnovers.

Virginia's defensive clamps remained firm in the 64-57 win at Delaware as the Cavaliers held the Blue Hens to just 29.0 percent field goal shooting.

Virginia's opponents have shot 50 percent or better from the field in only 14 of the last 170 games dating back to the 1991-92 season.

Virginia's defensive statistics under head coach Jeff Jones are listed below.

Year    FG% D   PPG allowed
1990-91  .442   68.5
1991-92  .424   65.2
1992-93  .405   69.3
1993-94  .394   65.7
1994-95  .390   66.8
1995-96  .394   68.8
1996-97  .409   65.0
1997-98  .380   66.0
Jones'   .408   67.0
career
Dersch Pumps in Career High 13 in Last Game

Willie Dersch came to Virginia a year ago as one of the nation's top recruits. With the Cavaliers featuring several experienced players at his position, he didn't get a lot of playing time last season, averaging 13.4 minutes per game in his 28 appearances.

He started this season's first seven games before being replaced in the line-up by Monte Marcaccini in the last game against VCU.

Dersch was having a rough go of it before leaving the starting line-up, averaging just 3.6 points per game, while shooting 25.6 percent from the floor.

Leading up to the VCU game, he had not scored in two games, both Virginia losses. But coming off the bench in the VCU game might have been just what Dersch needed. His play off the bench clearly helped spark the Cavaliers to a win against the Rams as he tossed in a career-high 13 points, while grabbing a career-high seven rebounds. Playing flawlessly at both ends of the court, Dersch dished off four assists (with no turnovers), blocked two shots and made two steals as the Cavaliers' won a tight contest 73-67.

While one game does not a season make, his game against VCU is surely one head coach Jeff Jones would like to see the rest of the way.

Dersch's 29 assists lead the team. He averages 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season.