Friday, March 12, 2010

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: UVa's Scott sends a message

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- "[A] guy goes on a shooting slump, n u kill him?" -- Mike Scott, via Twitter, March 4.

That's the last tweet I'm going to quote today. Promise. I don't have a Twitter-to-English dictionary, so that precludes me from understanding much of what Scott unloaded out of frustration on the social networking site last week.

But you needed to see one. And that one -- one of many unleashed in a tweet-tastic flurry a day after Virginia lost at Boston College -- was pretty straightforward and tells the story well.

Scott, UVa's junior forward, had several games recently where he couldn't shoot. Couldn't rebound. Couldn't do much of anything right, really.

In that sense, he was a lot like his team.

So some fans called him out on the message boards. Scott thought some of the posts got too personal. Scott took offense. Scott struck back.

"onnlllyyy at uvvaaa" he tweeted, after quoting some of the disparaging posts.

OK. I broke my promise -- that's two tweets I've cited. But he's mistaken on that one. Online criticism of athletes happens everywhere. And now, thanks to Web sites such as Twitter and Facebook, we get an unfiltered look at how players really feel about it.

Why is any of this important? Because Scott was fantastic Thursday, the best he's been in weeks.

In UVa's 68-62 victory over Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament, he scored, rebounded, defended and hit perhaps the most important basket of the game -- a turnaround, baseline jumper after BC had cut the deficit to three in the second half. He delayed the end of UVa's season by at least another day.

So we media members scurried into the locker room to find out how it happened.

"Just let the game come to me," Scott said. "I watched film on the Maryland, Miami and Duke games, and I had a lot of plays where I just forced a lot of stuff. I just tried to let the game come to me, stop trying to force plays."

Maybe. Or maybe he just decided to stick it to the doubters. Not that far of a reach, is it, given the tweeting business?

"I just said what I needed to say," Scott said on the eve of the tournament, when asked about the tweeting. "I wasn't disrespectful. I didn't curse anyone out. I just said what I needed to say. I just felt that fans had given up on us at that point."

The ones who hadn't given up let Scott know that, and he says he appreciated that support. The others? Well, at least they knew how he felt. And perhaps that release contributed to Scott's performance, which helped the shorthanded Cavs snap a nine-game losing streak.

Scott's rebounding total -- often a good barometer of effort -- stood at 13, the highest it had been since Feb. 13. He made 5 of 11 shots from the field, miles away from his 0-for-13 funk against Miami and Duke at the end of last month.

"His contributions were huge," UVa center Jerome Meyinsse said. "He really helped us rebound. He was another threat inside, and he really helped us on defense."

Scott was the biggest X-factor on this team this year, and we can assume he will be again as a senior next season. But we also can assume that we won't see another Twitter barrage like the one on March 4.

"That's behind me now," Scott said.

Then he smiled -- a welcome change in this embattled locker room -- and pointed toward a teammate seated nearby.

"I do want to say, y'all can follow my man Jontel Evans -- Bubevans1 -- on Twitter," Scott said. "He needs more followers."

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