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Jan. 3, 1998

Virginia Tries to Reverse Trend Versus Wake Forest

Virginia vs. 
Wake Forest
January 4, 1998      
1:00 p.m.
Robins Center
Richmond, Va.
The Series vs. the Demon Deacons

Helped by eight wins in the last nine meetings against the Cavaliers, Wake Forest holds a 54-50 lead in the all-time series.

Throughout the years, Wake Forest has periodically played some "home" games in Greensboro, N.C., including games against Virginia in 1969-70-83-87-89. The Cavaliers won the games in 1983, '87 and '89.

This season the Cavaliers are doing the same, playing some "home" games, including the Wake Forest contest, in Richmond at the University of Richmond's Robins Center as part of the three-game NationsBank Virginia Challenge. The Cavaliers have already played two games in Richmond--an 83-79 double overtime loss to Richmond and a 73-67 win over Virginia Commonwealth.

Tough to Shoot Well vs. Wake Forest

Virginia has had a rough time recently on the offensive end against Wake Forest. Since Jeff Jones took over the coaching reins in 1990-91, Virginia has shot 50 percent or better from the floor against Wake Forest only twice (1990-91: 50.0%/33 of 66, UVa 83-WFU 80, University Hall; 1995-96: 60.5%/23 of 38, UVa 67-WFU 49, University Hall).

In the 18 games Jones has coached against the Deacons, UVa is shooting 40.7 percent from the floor and is averaging 63.3 points per game.

On the other hand, the Cavalier defense has been almost as stingy as Wake's. The Demon Deacons are making 42.6 percent of their field goal attempts over the last 18 games and are averaging 66.2 points per game.

Wake Forest has topped 50+ percent from the floor only twice since Jones has been the head coach at Virginia. Those games are--52.1 percent (25-48) in a 74-66 win in Winston-Salem on February 10, 1991 and 55.8 percent (29-52) in an 81-64 win in Winston-Salem on January 24, 1996.

Home Away From Home

This is Virginia's third (and final) game of the season at the Robins Center on the campus of the University of Richmond. The Cavaliers are scheduled to play three games, including one ACC contest, in Richmond each of the next three seasons as part of the NationsBank Virginia Challenge.

The Cavaliers kicked off the series (and this season) by losing to Richmond 83-79 in double overtime at the Robins Center on November 16. They returned to the Robins Center and defeated Virginia Commonwealth 73-67 last month.

Cavaliers Must Cut Down on Turnovers

Virginia has been hurt throughout this season by turnovers. The Cavaliers are averaging 18.2 turnovers per game and have three games of 20+ turnovers.

The Cavaliers committed 27 turnovers against Nebraska and fell 80-65 in their first game in Hawaii's Rainbow Classic. Fourteen of the turnovers came in the second half as Nebraska used an early 19-4 run to erase Virginia's 35-28 halftime lead. The Cornhuskers used a 22-1 second half scoring advantage in points off turnovers to hold off Virginia and win.

In the losses to Duke and Connecticut last month, the Cavaliers out-rebounded both teams, shot a combined 43.4 percent from the field and allowed just two starters in each game to score in double figures, but were unable to overcome their inability to hold onto the ball.

The Cavaliers committed a season-high 28 miscues against Duke in a 103-59 loss in Durham. After scoring the game's first two points, UVa 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 leading to 16 UConn points as the Huskies gained a 74-63 win in Charlottesville on December 10.

In eight games this season, Virginia has had more turnovers than assists. Overall this season the Cavaliers have a 0.84:1 assists-to-turnover ratio.

Virginia has had more turnovers than assists in each of the last two seasons.

Staples Shoots for ACC Record

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 4.2 three-pointers per game.

He has led the Cavaliers in scoring four times, reaching the 20-point plateau each time.

Staples has tossed in at least five three-pointers in six 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.

Over the last five games, he has made at least five three-pointers four times. He has made 24 three-pointers in that span, an average of 4.8 per game.

He is tied for eighth place in NCAA history (and is second in ACC history) with 333 career three-point field goals.

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

NCAA    ACC  Player,        School,      Years     3FGM
    6.  1.   Dennis Scott,  Ga. Tech,    1988-90    351
    7.       Allan Houston, Tennessee,   1989-93    346
    8.  2.   Curtis Staples,Virginia,    1995-98    333
             Alphonso Ford, Miss. Valley,  90-93    333
Cavaliers Benefit from Helping Hand

Freshman Donald Hand returned to the starting line-up for the Rainbow Classic after not starting the previous three games. He played a key role in Virginia's win over Brigham Young last Monday as the Cavaliers held off the Cougars 72-54.

The rookie from Paterson, N.J., tossed in a career-high 14 points and added four assists to pace the Wahoos. Twelve of his points came in the second half as Virginia withstood a furious BYU rally. He connected on three three-pointers in the final nine minutes to spur Virginia.

Hand started all three games in Hawaii, scoring 22 points, handing off six assists and shooting 53.8 percent from the field.

He is expected to make his fourth consecutive start this afternoon, the longest streak of his brief career. He is second on the team in assists (34) and is averaging 5.2 points per game.

Once Upon a Time ...

There was a time when the Cavaliers relished the opportunity to go into overtime. From 1991-96 they won 11 consecutive overtime contests. But over the last two seasons overtime has been an anathema to Virginia.

The Cavaliers have dropped their last three overtime contests since their 11-game winning streak. The streak ended with a 64-61 loss at Connecticut last season.

Virginia has lost two overtime contests this season--an 83-79 double overtime affair at Richmond in the season opener and an 87-82 decision in the most recent game against New Mexico State.

This is the first time in over a decade the Cavaliers have lost three consecutive overtime games. They lost all three overtime contests during the 1986-87 season.

The only time Virginia has lost more than three consecutive overtime games was an eight-game skid from 1961-67.

Second Half Rallies Frustrate Cavaliers

Virginia played 125 minutes of basketball in last week's Rainbow Classic and for approximately 95 of those minutes Virginia out-played its opponent. One of the factors that contributed to the Cavaliers' 1-2 record in Hawaii was their inability to prevent the opposition from putting together impressive scoring runs in the second half. In all three games in Hawaii, the opponent eliminated or chipped away at substantial Virginia leads in the second half.

The Cavaliers led Nebraska 35-28 at halftime, but the Cornhuskers used a 19-4 run to start the second half to grab the lead for good en route to an 80-65 win.

Virginia built a 23-point lead in its second game against Brigham Young early in the second half, only to see the Cougars cut the lead to four points with a 28-9 run. The Cavaliers regrouped after BYU drew to within 56-52, and cruised to a 72-54 win.

In the final game in Hawaii, Virginia led New Mexico State 50-39 with14:48 remaining in the second half. The Aggies then outscored the Cavaliers 23-8 over the next 10 minutes to take the lead. The lead seesawed back and forth in the last few minutes of regulation before the Aggies forced the game into overtime. Virginia couldn't regain the momentum in overtime and fell 87-82.

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 45.8 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 58.9 percent vs. VMI on December 22, while the low is 41.0 percent vs. New Mexico State in the most recent game.

Last season UVa 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 seven times in 12 games.

Dersch Finds Scoring Touch

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 and was having a rough go of it before being taken out of the starting line-up prior to the VCU game. Up to that point he was averaging just 3.6 points per game, while shooting 25.6 percent from the floor. He had failed to score in the preceeding two games.

Coming off the bench for three games seems to be just what Dersch needed to get untracked.

Against VCU his play clearly helped spark the Cavaliers to a win as he tossed in 13 points, while grabbing 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.

Dersch topped his VCU scoring total with a career-high 18 points against VMI in the first game after first semester exams. He hit seven of 10 shots from the field, while also grabbing six rebounds.

He nearly recorded his first career "double double" as the Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker to New Mexico State last Tuesday in Hawaii. Going almost the whole way, he scored 15 points and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds. He also paced the Cavaliers with six assists.

His play in the last five contests is surely something head coach Jeff Jones would like to see the rest of the way. His numbers the last five games are below.

                FG      3FG     Pts.    Rebs.   Ast.    TO
VCU             4-10    1-3     13      7       4       0
VMI             7-10    1-2     18      6       1       1
Nebraska        2-6     2-4     6       3       3       3
BYU*            2-4     0-2     4       3       2       0
New Mex. St.*   5-10    4-8     15      9       6       3
Last 5          50.0    42.1    11.2    5.6     2.29:1 A:TO
Season          37.3    34.5    6.8     4.7     1.41:1 A:TO
*=started, others off the bench
Finding the Shooting Touch of Late

The Cavaliers shot just 25.8 percent from the field in the first half against Connecticut, by far their worst shooting half of the season. Since then Virginia has shot much better overall.

In the second half against UConn, Virginia shot 59.3 percent, but the comeback fell short.

The shooting stayed consistent in both halves against VCU as the Cavaliers shot 46.6 percent in a 73-67 win.

Virginia used 69.2 percent shooting from the field to build a 53-30 halftime lead against VMI in its first game following first semester exams. For the game Virginia turned in its best offensive performance of the season by scoring 92 points and shooting 58.9 percent.

The Cavaliers hit at least half of their shots in at least one half in all three games in Hawaii. Against Brigham Young last Monday, the Cavaliers shot 52.0 percent for the game.

Nolan and Staples Provide Scoring Punch
Curtis Staples.

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 12 games one of the two has led Virginia in scoring in each game.

Nolan leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.0 points per game and is fourth in the ACC in that department.

The senior from Baltimore, Md., turned in a fabulous Rainbow Classic in Hawaii last week. He led the Cavaliers in scoring and rebounding in all three games, registering "double doubles" in all three contests.

Staples is hot on Nolan's heels in the scoring race, averaging 18.3 ppg which ranks fifth in the ACC. He trails Nolan by eight points in the scoring race.

He paced the Cavaliers in the two games leading up to the trip to Hawaii with 20 points against VCU and 23 vs. VMI.

Between them, Staples and Nolan have scored more than half of Virginia's points this season (448 of 830).

Nolan Shines in Hawaii
Norman Nolan.

With many NBA scouts in attendance at last week's Rainbow Classic in Hawaii, power forward Norman Nolan picked the perfect opportunity to have three of the best performances of his career.

He began the tournament with a 23-point, 11-rebound effort against Nebraska in the first round. Two days later against Brigham Young he scored a game-high 24 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds in a 72-54 Virginia win. New Mexico State didn't have much luck slowing the senior from Baltimore, Md., as Nolan scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

His three "double doubles" were the most of any player in the Rainbow Classic. In fact, he was the only player with more than one.

For the tournament he finished third in scoring with 71 points (behind Kansas' Paul Pierce and Nebraska's Tyronn Lue). He was the tournament's second-leading rebounder with 31 boards, one fewer than Lester Earl of Kansas.

Nolan Leads ACC in "Double Doubles"

Counted on to carry the scoring and rebounding load inside for the Cavaliers, Norman Nolan is excelling in both areas this season in what is shaping up to be the best season of his career.

He is among the top-five in the ACC in scoring--fourth, averaging 19.0 ppg--and in rebounding--fourth, averaging 8.8 rpg.

He is tied with Georgia Tech's Matt Harpring for the ACC lead with eight "double doubles."

Nolan had six "double doubles" last season and now has 18 for his career.

He turned in a fabulous Rainbow Classic last week in Hawaii, recording "double doubles" in all three Virginia games. His play in the games in Hawaii is outlined below.

FG FT Reb. Pts. Nebraska 10-22 3-6 11 23 Brigham Young 10-16 4-8 10 24 New Mexico St. 8-19 8-10 10 24 Last 3 avg. 49.1% 62.5% 10.3 23.7 Season Avg. 53.4% 55.1% 8.8 19.0 Virginia Wins with Defense

UVa 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.

UVa limited VMI to just 30.0 percent shooting in Virginia's most recent home game.

Virginia's opponents have shot 50 percent or better from the field in only 15 of the last 174 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         .390        67.0
Jones' career   .408        67.0
Three See Starting Action at the Point

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 position 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 was in the starting five in three straight games before giving the reins back to Hand for the last three games.

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. Hand has also started the last three games.

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.

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 tied for second on the team in rebounding this season with a 5.0 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.

1997-98 Schedule & Results

N. 16   at Richmond L       79-83 (2ot)
N. 19   William & Mary      W   59-45
N. 22   George Mason        W   60-45
N. 25   at Delaware         W   64-57
D. 2    Appalachian State   W   62-54   
D. 6    at Duke             L   59-103
D. 10   Connecticut         L   63-74   
D. 13   VCU (Robins Ctr.)   W   73-67
D. 22   VMI                 W   92-55

    Rainbow Classic
D. 27   Nebraska            L   65-80
D. 29   Brigham Young       W   72-54
D. 30   New Mexico State    L   82-87 (ot)

J. 4    Wake Forest (Robins Ctr.)   1:00 p.m.
J. 7    Liberty                     7:30 p.m.
J. 10   at North Carolina           1:30 p.m.
J. 12   Virginia Tech (Roanoke)     7:00 p.m.
J. 15   Georgia Tech                8:00 p.m.
J. 18   N.C. State                  1:30 p.m.
J. 20   at Clemson                  8:00 p.m.
J. 24   Duke                        Noon
J. 27   at Wake Forest              8:00 p.m.
F. 1    at Maryland                 4:00 p.m.
F. 4    Florida State               7:30 p.m.
F. 11   North Carolina              9:00 p.m.
F. 14   at Georgia Tech             Noon
F. 18   at N.C. State               7:00 p.m.
F. 21   Clemson                     1:30 p.m.
F. 24   Maryland                    9:00 p.m.
F. 28   at Florida State            4:00 p.m.
M. 5-8  ACC Tournament   Greensboro, N.C.

Virginia (1997-98 record: 7-5 overall/0-1 in the ACC) plays its first game of the 1998 calendar year today against Wake Forest (1997-98 record: 7-3 overall) at the Robins Center on the campus of the University of Richmond. Tip off is set for 1:00 p.m.

Television: Today's game is being televised on the Raycom/Jefferson-Pilot ACC network. Tim Brant is the play by play announcer and Bucky Waters is the analyst.

Radio: All UVa games are heard on the Virginia Sports Network originating at WINA/WQMZ in Charlottesville. Mac McDonald calls the play by play. Jim Hobgood provides the analysis.


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Jeff White

Director of News Content

A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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