Virginia men’s head basketball coach Dave Leitao got an early opportunity to look at his team when the Cavaliers played three exhibition games in Montreal the weekend of Aug. 30-31. The NCAA allowed Virginia to practice 10 times before leaving for Canada and between the practices, games and the opportunity for team bonding, it was a beneficial experience for the Cavaliers.
The trip also provided the team with some challenges. Virginia arrived in Montreal late in the evening on Aug. 29 and played the three games in a 26-hour period.
Virginia won two games on Aug. 30, defeating St. Lawrence College (Kingston, Ontario) 107-60 in the morning in a game played at Concordia University in Montreal. The Cavaliers then defeated Concordia 85-70 that afternoon. UVa ended the trip with an 88-83 loss to McGill University on Aug. 31 and returned to Charlottesville that day.
Five players scored in double figures and Virginia out-scored St. Lawrence 60-24 in the second half in the victory over the Vikings. Freshman Sylven Landesberg scored 18 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had four assists, and junior Calvin Baker had 18 points and three assists to lead the Cavaliers. Sophomore Mike Scott added 13 points and six rebounds, sophomore Jeff Jones scored 11 points, and junior Jerome Meyinsse scored 11 points and had seven rebounds.
UVa shot 55.7 percent (44-79) from the field and out-rebounded the Vikings 44-32. The Cavaliers also forced 34 St. Lawrence turnovers.
“Overall, I think we did a little bit more what I wanted us to do, which is push the basketball and defend with some pressure,” Leitao said after the game. “Calvin did a good job and obviously Sylven with 18 points and 13 rebounds, showed his versatility and that told me he’s a basketball player. He’s got to continue to use this as an opportunity to get better.”
Against Concordia, Landesberg and Scott both had double-doubles and Virginia out-rebounded the Stingers 64-42. Landesberg scored 16 points and had 10 rebounds, while Scott scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds. Baker and Jones each added 12 points for the Cavaliers. Six Virginia players had at least seven rebounds.
UVa never trailed in the game and led 48-30 at halftime. The Cavaliers led by as many as 36 points in the second half and led by 35 (80-45) with 7:58 left in the game before the Stingers rallied. Virginia limited Concordia to 27.7 percent (23-83) shooting from the field and the Cavaliers shot 44.2 percent (34-77). Virginia turned the ball over 22 times and Concordia had 14 turnovers.
“I thought we played better competition in the game against Concordia and I thought we were a little more impressive, especially on the defensive end,” Leitao said. “As an assessment, I think we’re in pretty good physical condition and I think there’s a little better understanding compared to where we were at the end of last season as to what is required defensively. I’m happy about that, but we obviously still have work to do. This Concordia team has proven itself dangerous in years gone by, so I’m happy we got through 80 minutes today and played pretty well overall.”
In the loss to McGill in the final game of the trip, Moustafa El Zanaty scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Redmen to the victory. McGill had lost to Kansas 72-67 in an exhibition game the day before the game with Virginia.
UVa led 80-75 with 3:02 left in the game before McGill outscored the Cavaliers 13-3 the rest of the way. The Redmen took the lead for good at 81-80 with 1:06 left on two free throws by El Zanaty. He scored eight points in the final McGill run and went 6-6 from the free throw line in the last 1:06 of the game.
Baker and Jones each scored 18 points to lead the Cavaliers. Sammy Zeglinski added 11 points and six rebounds, and Meyinsse 10 points and six rebounds for Virginia.
McGill led by as many as 13 points in the first half and led by eight (44-36) with 3:46 left in the half. UVa then went on a 12-1 run to take a 48-45 lead at halftime. Baker scored the last six points in the Virginia run.
The Cavaliers led by as many as eight points early in the second half and held the lead until the Redmen scored five consecutive points to forge a 74-74 tie with 4:58 left in the game. Virginia regained the lead on a basket by Meyinsse and after McGill’s Sean Anthony made a free throw, baskets by Jamil Tucker and Jones built the Cavaliers’ lead to 80-75. The Redmen then began their game-winning run.
McGill made 13 three-point field goals and shot 41.9 percent (13-31) from three-point range, while UVa made six three-pointers and shot 24.0 percent (6-25) from three-point range. Overall, Virginia shot 42.4 percent (28-66) from the field and McGill shot 39.7 percent (27-68). The Redmen out-rebounded the Cavaliers 40-39 and Virginia had 21 turnovers to 14 for McGill.
“Any time you compete the object is to win,” Leitao said. “McGill played well and I congratulate them on the victory. Over this weekend we’d obviously rather win than lose, but in the case of this trip, I probably coached a little differently. I was coaching to get better as a team and to find some things out. As a result of this game, we can identify areas we need to work on and when we get started in October work on those areas to be sure by the time we get to the season we’ve shored those things up.”
Eleven players saw action for the Cavaliers on the trip and 10 of them made at least one start. No player started more than two games and eight players averaged at least 19 minutes played a game.
Four players averaged double figures in scoring for Virginia and three averaged at least seven rebounds a game. Baker led the team with an average of 16.0 points a game for the three games, while shooting 54.3 percent (19-35) from the field and 44.4 percent (4-9) from three-point range. Jones averaged 13.7 points a game, and Landesberg averaged 12.0 points and a team-leading 8.0 rebounds a game. Scott averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds.
Zeglinski averaged 8.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and a team-leading 4.0 assists a game, while Meyinsse averaged 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds. Sophomore Mustapha Farrakhan averaged 7.3 points, and junior Jamil Tucker averaged 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds.
As a team, Virginia shot 47.7 percent from the field, but only 26.9 percent from three-point range. UVa’s three opponents shot 32.2 percent from the field, including 37.1 percent from three-point range. The Cavaliers averaged 91.7 points a game compared to 72.7 points a game for their opponents, and Virginia averaged 49.0 rebounds a game to 38.0 rebounds a game for the opposition. UVa turned the ball over 59 times and their opponents turned it over 62 times.
“I think with just about every team that takes a trip like this there’s as much off the court you want to do,” Leitao said. “It was good to get the guys in situations where they bonded and to understand the meaning of living outside their box a little bit more. In any team structured atmosphere you have to be able to give and get. I think as much as anything, having these 10 days of practice and a weekend trip, away from what happens on the court was very beneficial and something that will hopefully carry over into the season.”