Virginia's Joe Harris Continues to Struggle in Loss to Wisconsin

By Jeff Kelly

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this for Virginia. They’ve only lost two games so far this season, but very few people can argue that they’ve been one of the most disappointing teams early in the year, most recently in a brutal, ugly loss against No. 8-ranked Wisconsin, falling 48-38.

That’s the type of score you’d most likely see in a college football game, or maybe a junior varsity basketball game, but instead it was an awful effort given to the fans at Virginia as they watched their Hoos fall in the type of game that was such a grinder it would obliterate a basket full of apples past the point of applesauce and just about into oblivion. Neither team managed to shoot better than 29 percent, and while you could point to strong defensive efforts, at the end of the day it was simply a horrible offensive display.

At the heart of it for Virginia was senior guard Joe Harris, who entered the season as one of the favorites to win the title of ACC Player of the Year but has been disappointing against decent teams, to say the least. He’s struggled to score against good defenses for most of the year, and tonight was just 1-of-10 with two points, though he did manage to hand out five assists. That last stat isn’t bad considering the Hoos made just 11 field goals as a team.

Of course it wasn’t just Harris who struggled against Wisconsin, as not a single player managed to reach double figures in the scoring column. London Perrantes was the high scorer with nine points, but was 2-of-5 from the field with no assists, and that’s not exactly ideal for a young point guard. Right now, Virginia has zero identity offensively, and that could absolutely kill them in the long run. Harris hasn’t done much in half of the games the team has played, and fellow supposed star Akil Mitchell has also struggled to open the year.

In many ways, Mitchell has been vastly more disappointing than Harris. While Harris is still leading the team in scoring and shooting percentages, Mitchell, who some thought could possibly put together a double-double type of season in terms of averages, is shooting under 50 percent and averaging just 6.0 points and 5.0 rebounds, hardly world-beating numbers for a 6-foot-8, 235-pound forward.

The loss to Wisconsin shouldn’t be a big surprise, because there’s a reason Wisconsin is undefeated and ranked in the top 10 nationally. Still, the ugly way in which the Hoos lost just served to highlight the flaws of this head coach Tony Bennett‘s team. It’s one thing to be a slow, methodical team, but it’s another to be the same type of team that has a distinct inability to score against a solid defense.

Jeff is an ACC basketball writer on Follow him on Twitter @jekelish and like him on Facebook

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