Jones' wake-up call tries to get Va. rise Disappointed coach puts team through 6 a.m. drills for Terps

February 01, 1996|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

After four straight losses -- the latest a 30-point blowout to Connecticut -- Virginia coach Jeff Jones sounded the alarm this week.

If it seemed a lot like a wake-up call to the Cavaliers, it should have.

Jones put Virginia through a pair of 6 a.m. workouts the past two days in preparation for tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference game against Maryland in Charlottesville, Va.

Actually, it was back to two-a-days for the Cavaliers, who practiced for an hour at dawn and again for 90 minutes in the afternoon.

"It's rough," said Virginia's Norman Nolan, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Dunbar High. "A lot of guys are struggling right now. I'm feeling it. Along with practice, you've got to go to class and try to catch naps."

Jones can only hope the Cavaliers (7-9, 2-5) don't nap through tonight's game. But after a 76-46 loss to UConn on Sunday, he decided it was time for drastic measures.

"It was both for a psychological reason and the matter of getting more work in," Jones said. "We don't want to be stupid and run them into the ground so they don't have anything left physically. But clearly, there are a lot of things we need to work on out on the court."

When these two teams met last March at University Hall, it was to determine the ACC's regular-season champion (a Virginia romp turned it into a four-way tie). Now they're playing to see which team is the ACC's most disappointing.

Like Virginia, Maryland came into the season with high expectations. The Terps were the preseason favorites of ACC writers to win the conference, and reached 14th in the AP's Top 25 poll. The Cavaliers were third in the writers' ballot, and got as high as 19th in the poll.

Both teams hit the skids soon after, though, and now each is trying to salvage its season. At 2-4 in the ACC and 9-7 overall, the Terps are coming off an 83-73 loss at Duke, leaving them 0-3 on the road in conference play.

"As far as being a big disappointment goes, we lost arguably the best player in the country [Joe Smith] and I thought Virginia lost a great college player in Junior Burrough," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "Burrough was automatic like Joe was. If he got the ball inside, he either would be fouled or score. This year, neither team has that luxury.

"What it's done is, it affects the inside scoring, but it also allowed defenses to pressure more on the perimeter shooters. [Harold] Deane and [Curtis] Staples were considered as good a scoring backcourt as any backcourt in the country at the start of the year. One of the reasons they've struggled with their shooting is teams are able to put more pressure on them. And we're seeing the same thing."

Maryland's offense has suffered with 43.9 percent shooting from the field (34.5 from the arc). Virginia has suffered even more, hitting just 39.7 percent from the field and 29.6 from the arc.

Nolan, averaging 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, said the Cavaliers are still hopeful of rescuing their season.

"This year the ACC is real shaky," he said. "There's not one real dominant team. There's still some space for teams to slip in there. There's a strong possibility if we put some wins together, we can get into the NCAA tournament."

Looking at a home game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Williams harbors the same vision: "If we win these two games, we'll be 11-7 and 4-4 in the league, which, if we kept those percentages, would probably get us into the NCAA tournament."

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