Breaking down the basketball spectacle

Breaking down the basketball spectacle

From heartbreakers to heroes, it was an up-and-down week for the men’s basketball team with an overtime loss to Virginia Tech and a big win against Boston College. But the game is about more than what happens on the court. C-VILLE grades out the JPJ experience, from CavMan animation to the halftime shows. Oh, and we have something to say about the game too.

Calvin Baker, #4, had the chances to win the game against Virginia Tech, but a 3-pointer and a midrange jumper both missed and the Hokies got the win in overtime.

Virginia Tech
January 16, 2008

Animation grade: A

I’ve got to hand it to the animators this time. They had me all set up to think it was just the usual old graphic, only with a Hokie approaching CavMan instead of the generic black knight used for most nonconference games—but instead they have the Hokie turn out to be an eighth of the size of our behorsed hero. The turkey turns to run, CavMan channels his inner Emperor a la Star Wars to shoot a blue thunderbolt from the tip of his sword, and the scorched bird explodes into a couple of charcoaled feathers. Bonus points for later animation: The jumbotron shows a VT fan, and out comes a CavMan animation that spraypaints a Singletary jersey on the unsuspecting Hokie.

First half grade: B

Score: 38-34, UVA. It gets off to an awful start, a 9-0 run by Tech that forces Leitao to take a timeout before three minutes have passed. At the 13:40 mark, it finally feels like the vibe could be back when Singletary ices a 3-pointer.

Leitao is playing a much tighter lineup, with only Jamil Tucker and Ryan Pettinella getting serious minutes, with some time given to Jeff Jones and Jerome Meyinsse. The final play of the half is brilliantly executed: Singletary dribbles the ball to let the clock wind down so that UVA can take the final shot of the half. The other guys stand around, looking tired, especially Pettinella. But just after stifling a yawn, Pettinella rushes up to set a screen for Singletary, Singletary uses it, penetrates past three defenders, and lays it in. Beautiful. Pettinella should win an Oscar.

Halftime grade: D+

The halftime act, “Bam bam paintjam” (huh?) couldn’t make it because of a scheduling conflict. Darn. And so officials had to scrap something together to follow the dance team—God knows we can’t take five minutes off from being “entertained.” The CBS19 reporter cobbles together a game where two fans run around like idiots trying miserably to make layups while wearing baggy clothes. It’s engrossing, in a I-can’t-believe-what-people-will-do-in-public-for-a-prize-pack sort of way.

Halftime stat report: UVA is getting out-rebounded this game, 20-17. Sean has scored 61 percent of the team’s points. Pettinella has played 11 minutes to Mike Scott’s five, even though Scott started. Jeff Jones’ minutes have dramatically fallen off in the New Year: The one-time starter is down to only four minutes in the half.

Second half & overtime grade: D for UVA’s performance; A as sports spectacle

Score: 31-36, Virginia Tech. Oh, disaster for a Cavalier fan. But highly entertaining disaster. Who can argue with overtime—it’s like a deal where you buy eight, get one free. So maybe it’s not that great a deal, but at least it’s better than a free gallon of washer fluid.

Ryan Pettinella has an amazing performance: He hits two foul shots in a row—in a row! It’s a feat on par with Singletary hitting 100 in a row. With such an amazing performance from Ryan, you’d think that the gods would be shining on the Wahoos, but the final moments of regulation and overtime prove that that is not the case—and prove even more that somebody other than Singletary needs to be able to score in the clutch. This game, it was Calvin Baker who got the open looks after seemingly the entire Hokie bench swarmed Singletary as he drove to the basket. Baker got the looks, but he missed, both in the last minute of regulation and at the last minute of overtime.

The Cavs make a strong defensive stand as Tech has the last possession, but instead of coming down with the rebound with 11 seconds left, UVA tips it out of bounds. Tech’s freakish (but usually unfocused) athlete, Deron Washington (check out his YouTube clips if you don’t know), nailed a layup as time expired to give the Hokies the victory.

Crowd grade: A-

It doesn’t quite get to the level of the Duke game last year, but it gets close. The biggest crowd of the year, 14,433 strong, comes out to see UVA face the rival Hokies. U.S. Cellular helps pay for towels placed on all the seats, and the jumbotron urges the fans to swing them around during “Towel time,” usually when VT is shooting free throws. The crowd gets better at “Towel Time” as the game goes on, particularly college students and little kids, though when the game ends on Washington’s lay-up, many opt to throw their towels toward the court.

Boston College Game Report
January 19, 2008

Animation: B

This one continues the bird theme of the January 19 game against the Hokies, though this time instead of one tiny turkey, a squadron of fighter plane-esque eagles fly out of a dark cloud at CavMan (and, of course, his spirited but ineffective Cavalier Nation). Our seemingly steroid-enhanced hero battles off three waves before the Hoos can triumph, and the animation includes a scene of singed feathers that looks suspiciously like the singed Hokie feathers from last week. The journalist next to me keeps asking whether he should buy a Mac, and so I can’t catch if CavMan again turned to the Dark Side to shoot his Emperor’s blue lightning.

First half: C+

Score: 35-35. It’s always nice to get the shooters off on a good foot, and Diane hitting his a 3-pointer in the first minute seems like a positive sign. Rebounding looks like it might be a problem. UVA goes to a 2-3 zone defense on the third or forth possession, and varies between it and man-to-man throughout the game. Ryan Pettinella, for all his awfulness shooting the ball, has a decent couple of lay-in moves when he’s completely unguarded (as he’s wont to be, if teams have done any scouting). Sean is high energy, working hard for a steal throughout the game (he ends up with six, though none in the first half).

It’s obvious that Dave Leitao isn’t pleased with Joseph’s play: Leitao limits his minutes and stares Joseph down for several seconds going into a timeout. I’m glad nobody stares at me that way—it’s like a father issuing the death penalty to his adopted son.

The final points of the half come on the same play that UVA ran at the end of the first half against VT, and it comes with the same effect—Sean getting open enough to hit a shot—though this time Mike Scott sets the high screen. The Academy will not be impressed with Scott’s performance compared to Pettinella’s.

Halftime: C

After the dance girls do their thing, some guinea pigs from the stands are recruited to push around giant inflated cubes with Brown Auto logos emblazoned on the side. I think there might have been some prize pack at stake.

Events look like they’re off schedule because a gang of UVA Athletics drones scurry about to set up a ramp for a BMX stunt team. The most remarkable thing about the show is that one of the dudes doesn’t make his jump and takes a spill. Their big final act involves one BMX biker leaping over another one on the platform—to the shock and awe of no one in the stands. Then, five minutes after it started, the drones struggle to clear the platform in time for the shootaround.

Halftime stat surprises (for the nerdy basketball fans among you): Mamadi Diane leads all scorers with 14 points; Boston College is only winning the rebounding battle by one, 24-23; both teams are shooting below 40 percent but are protecting the basketball, with only two turnovers from UVA and four from BC; Mike Scott, who started, played only four minutes, while Jamil Tucker played 15 and pulled down seven rebounds.

Celebs: B

Includes the usuals, like John Grisham, along with two former Cavalier athletes-turned-pros Roger Mason, Jr. (now playing for the Washington Wizards) and Ryan Kuehl (now not playing for the New York Giants). Rumor has it that Governor Tim Kaine is in attendance, but I never get a glimpse of him—if he’s in someone’s box, he blends in pretty well with all the other white dudes. He must not have on that jacket he wore to the Barack Obama event in Charlottesville—surely I would have noticed that.

Second half: A+

Score: 49-31 UVA, for an 84-66 final. For maybe the first time all season, the Cavs look like they’re having fun out there. Calvin Baker, after scoring on a put back, is particularly pumped, raising his arms to get the crowd into it and smiling like an 8-year-old. The offense, instead of settling for jumper after jumper, starts running high screens for Singletary time and time again, giving him the option to either score or dish, and he does a little of both, finishing with 19 points and 10 assists. Joseph is the primary beneficiary, getting 17 points all in this half. On defense, UVA continues to change it up on BC, though ends up double-teaming Tyrese Rice (BC’s leading scorer) an awful lot, to good effect.

One point that’s very reassuring: The Cavaliers don’t struggle every single time to inbound the ball. Hopefully, when they play Duke again, it won’t be so sloppy on that count.

Lineup lessons: Starting lineup stays the same, but Scott’s diminishing minutes make it seem like Pettinella’s some All-Star ringer—Scott played only six minutes in the game compared to Pettinella’s 26.Tucker and Pettinella are still the first substitutions. Singletary had it comparatively easy—he got three whole minutes off (against Tech, he only got one). Cal Baker is definitely the guy that Leitao trusts right now to run the team in Sean’s absence.

Crowd: B+

Official attendance is 14,039 for a “sold-out” game—“sold out” being how UVA’s official website described the situation. It looks reasonably full, though it definitely doesn’t have the energy that the Virginia Tech game had. One thing I’ll say for it, though: The crowd does a really nice job of being quiet during home team free throws. It helps that the Boston crowd is almost nonexistent. No rally rags on every seat this time around. The students do a good job of following through on the “Air ball!” chant after BC point guard Tyrese Rice is forced into tossing up a long range 3 at the end of a shot clock in the second half.

Worst part of crowd performance: A sizeable contingent heads for the exits with two minutes left to play. What are they thinking? Don’t they know this team well enough to not trust a lead, even if it is 12 points? But those who stay give the Cavs a solid standing ovation after BC gives up with 40 seconds left.

Dunk of the game

Boston College has some decent ones, and Mamadi Diane has one in the first half that isn’t bad—but it’s a Diane-to-Joseph alley oop in the second half that makes the crowd go bonkers ( The pass looks like it’s high and a little behind the flying Joseph, but he effortlessly takes it and jams it home—the seeming error only makes the dunk that much more emphatic. BC has to call a timeout in order to give everyone a chance to talk about how awesome it was.

Next home game: Sunday, January 27, against Georgia Tech.

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