Jan. 6, 1998

Virginia to Host Liberty

Virginia vs. Liberty
January 7, 1998  7:30 p.m.
University Hall
Charlottesville, Va.

The Series vs. the Flames

Virginia has won all three games in the series--62-49 during the 1993-94 season, 76-48 two seasons ago and 67-54 last season. All three games have been played at University Hall.

Virginia's average margin of victory is 18.0 points, with a 28-point margin (76-48) in 1995-96 standing as the largest victory in the series. Virginia has not scored fewer than 62 points, while Liberty has not scored more than 54.

Each of the series' first three games occurred in December.

The first meeting saw Liberty out-shoot (43.2 percent to 39.0 percent) and out-rebound the Cavaliers (35 to 31), but the Flames lost 62-49. Virginia has turned the tables in the last two meetings by out-shooting and out-rebounding the visitors from Lynchburg.

Virginia has led at halftime in all three meetings, but the scoring by half follows a curious pattern. In two games (1994, '97), Virginia scored fewer points in the second half than in the first. In both those games, the Flames scored more points in the final 20 minutes than they did in the first 20. In the only game when the Cavaliers scored more points in the second half than in the first (1996), the Flames scored fewer points in the second half than they did in the first. No game has seen both teams increase their scoring in the second half.

Virginia has had four double figure scorers in two games (1994, '97). Three Cavaliers reached double digits in 1996.

The Cavaliers have committed exactly nine turnovers in each game.

A Cavalier has had a "double double" in all three games--Cornel Parker in 1994, and Courtney Alexander in 1996 and 1997.

Curtis Staples has had a rough time from the outside, shooting just three of 12 from behind the arc in two games against the Flames.

Fast Starts for Virginia vs. Liberty

The Cavaliers have gotten off to fast starts in the last two games against Liberty. In the meeting two years ago, the Cavaliers scored the game's first 12 points, while in last year's meeting Virginia scored the first eight points of the game.

The fast starts have prevented Liberty from leading at all in either game.

The only time Liberty has led in the series' three games occurred in the first meeting in 1993-94. The Flames held the lead for 4:33, but Virginia grabbed the lead for good at the 12:01 mark of the first half and led the rest of the way.

In 120 minutes of play, the score has been tied 2:48. Liberty has led for 4:33 and Virginia has led for 112:39.

Non-Conference Teams at University Hall

Virginia is 122-11 (.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 last month, but got back in the win column with a 92-55 win against VMI on December 22.

Under Jeff Jones' direction the Cavaliers are 45-6 (.882) at U-Hall against non-conference teams.

The Cavaliers have won 45 of their last 50 home games against non-conference opponents dating back to Jones' first year as head coach in 1990-91.

Virginia is 168-25 (.870) all-time in University Hall against non-conference opponents since the building opened for the 1965-66 season.

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.

Liberty has never won in three previous trips to University Hall.

Since University Hall opened on November 25, 1965, the Cavaliers have compiled a 65-6 (.915) record against state schools on the hardwood at U-Hall.

Virginia has won 42 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.

Virginia vs. the Big South Conference

This is Virginia's only game of the season against a school from the Big South Conference. This is also the third consecutive season the Cavaliers have faced a Big South team.

Virginia faced Liberty the last two seasons, and faced Radford and Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) last season.

Against the seven current members of the Big South Conference, the Cavaliers are 10-0 all-time. Virginia is 4-0 vs. Radford, 3-0 vs. Liberty, 2-0 vs. Winthrop and 1-0 vs. UMBC.

Of the Big South's current membership, Virginia has never faced Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, or North Carolina-Asheville.

There have been six other schools that have been members of the Big South Conference at one time or another since 1986. Virginia is 12-0 against schools in the Big South at game time.

Virginia vs. In-State Teams

This is the Cavaliers' sixth game this season against an in-state opponent. So far this season the Cavaliers have defeated William & Mary, George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and VMI, 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 82-13 (.863) at all sites against in-state opponents. His record as head coach against state schools is 29-5 (.853).

Opponents Shoot Blanks at University Hall

Virginia is 27-5 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 45.5 percent from the field compared to 35.8 percent for the opposition. Virginia also out-rebounds the other team by more than 10 rebounds per game (47.3/g to 35.2/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 32 non-conference opponents to come to University Hall have managed to make more than 40 percent of their field goal attempts.

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

Nolan leads the team in scoring, averaging 19.9 points per game and is third 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 18.7 ppg which ranks fifth in the ACC. He trails Nolan by 16 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 (502 of 903).

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 4.3 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 seven 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 six games, he has made at least five three-pointers five times. He has made 30 three-pointers in that span, an average of 5.0 per game.

He is eighth in NCAA history (and second in ACC history) with 339 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   339

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 game at University Hall.

Virginia's opponents have shot 50 percent or better from the field in only 15 of the last 175 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          .387   66.8
Jones' career    .407   67.0

Three-Point Attack on Record Pace

The Cavaliers have made at least five three-point field goals in the last seven games and are averaging 6.6 three-pointers per game.

Virginia is second in three-point field goal percentage (38.6) and is tied for fourth in three-pointers per game in the ACC.

Virginia has made at least one three-point field goal in a school-record 169 consecutive games. The last time the Cavaliers failed to make at least one three-pointer came against New Mexico in the 1992 NIT.

If it keeps going at its current pace, this year's club could set the school record for three-point field goal percentage. Last season's team tied the mark of 36.2 percent set by the 1994-95 club.

The top seasons in school history for three-point percentage are below.

       Year    3FG%
    1.  1994-95 36.2
        1996-97 36.2
    3.  1988-89 35.0
    4.  1987-88 34.5
    5.  1989-90 34.3
(Note: UVa shot 46.8 percent (58-124) when the ACC experimented with a closer three-point arc in 1982-83)
Two Nearing Scoring Milestones

Curtis Staples and Norman Nolan are both nearing career scoring milestones.

Staples has scored 1457 points in his career and needs 43 points to become the 11th player in school history to score at least 1500 points. He is 12th on UVa's all-time points list.

Nolan needs 50 points to become the 32nd Cavalier to score 1000 career points. With 950 career points, he is 35th on the school's all-time list.

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.

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 eight times in 13 games.

The Cavaliers' field goal shooting percentage this season is their best since shooting 46.0 percent in 1988-89.

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--third, averaging 19.9 ppg--and in rebounding--fourth, averaging 9.1 rpg.

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

Nolan had six "double doubles" last season and now has 19 for his career.

He turned in a fabulous Rainbow Classic last week in Hawaii, recording "double doubles" in all three Virginia games.

Upon his return to the mainland, Nolan picked up where he left off in Hawaii by tying his career-high of 31 points against Wake Forest last Sunday. He also pulled down 12 rebounds for his fourth consecutive "double double."

His play in the last four games 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
Wake Forest         14-24   3-4   12    31
Last 4 avg.         51.9%   64.3% 10.8  25.5
Season Avg.         54.0%   56.2%  9.1  19.9

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.

Cavaliers Must Cut Down on Turnovers

Turnovers are one thing that drive basketball coaches crazy. And this season turnovers have been a big bugaboo for head coach Jeff Jones and his staff as the Cavaliers are averaging 17.9 turnovers per game and have three games of 20+ turnovers.

The Cavaliers have 75 more turnovers than the opposition so far this season. They have also attempted 52 fewer shots despite having more offensive rebounds than their opponents.

An inability to maximize their scoring chances has doomed the Cavaliers in several games this season as they have lost games by four, five and 11 points.

In eight games this season, Virginia has had more turnovers than assists. Overall this season the Cavaliers have a 0.85:1 assists-to-turnover ratio.

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

Nolan Shines in Hawaii

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.

Big Game Hunter

Sophomore center Kris Hunter has not seen a lot of action this season, averaging just 9.6 minutes per game. Recently his minutes have increased dramatically, due in large part to making things happen when he's been put in games.

He began his recent run of contributions December 13 in a game against VCU. The Cavaliers were somewhat sluggish midway through the first half and Hunter provided a spark. Shortly after entering the contest he slammed home a Curtis Staples shot to arouse the crowd. For the game, he played 12 minutes and scored a career-high six points. He also grabbed four rebounds (all on the offensive end), blocked two shots, added an assist and made a steal.

In the five games since then, his contributions have been just as valuable. He came up particularly big against Wake Forest the last time out. With Colin Ducharme saddled with foul problems, Hunter tied his career high by logging 17 minutes. Using his wiry frame, he worked his way inside for two crucial second half tip ins as the Cavaliers won in overtime.

His numbers in the last six games, shown below, may be modest, but he has given Virginia an added weapon off the bench.

         First 7 Games*    Last 6
FG%             50.0         70.0
FT%              0.0         80.0
Off. Rebs.       2            7
Rebounds         3           15
Assists          1            2
Blocks           4            5
Min./g           5.8         12.2   
Points           4           22
* Played in four of first seven games

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. Upon returning to the mainland, UVa's woes in that regard continued against Wake Forest last Sunday.

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 with 14:48 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.

Virginia led Wake Forest 28-22 at halftime on Sunday, but the Demon Deacons used a 13-6 run to start the second half to take the lead. Virginia fought back to regain the lead, but the Deacs closed the game with a 9-4 run in the last four minutes of regulation to force overtime.

The Cavaliers fell behind early in overtime, but held the Deacs scoreless over the last 3:24 while scoring the game's final 10 points to win.

Hand Returns to Starting Line-Up

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 week 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 didn't score last Sunday against Wake Forest, but led the Cavaliers with five assists in 25 minutes of action.

He is expected to make his fifth consecutive start this evening, the longest streak of his brief career. He is second on the team in assists (39) and is averaging 4.8 points per game.

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 in their last game 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 heady play was instrumental in the overtime win over Wake Forest last Sunday. The Cavaliers held a slim two-point lead in overtime until Dersch spotted a wide open Colin Ducharme for a thunderous dunk with 1:26 to play. Ducharme was also fouled on the play, but missed the ensuing free throw. Dersch was in position to tap the miss out to a Virginia guard and the Cavaliers retained possession. UVa scored on the possession to hold off the Demon Deacons.

His play recently is surely something head coach Jeff Jones would like to see the rest of the way. His numbers the last six 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
Wake Forest*  2-5   1-2     6      7    4     2
Last 6        48.9  42.9  10.3   5.8    2.2 2:1 A:TO
Season        37.5  35.5   6.7   4.8    1.4 5:1 A:TO
*=started, others off the bench