Defense Doesn’t Rest Against Richmond

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J.R. Reynolds scored 16 points in the second half, two fewer than Richmond’s entire team.

Defense, rebounding and guard play. That may be the recipe for whatever success Virginia enjoys in Dave Leitao’s first season as head coach, and it worked once again tonight. Virginia shut down Richmond at the start of each half, pounded the Spiders on the boards and got 37 points from its starting guards in a 59-43 victory at the Robins Center. J.R. Reynolds scored 23 points and Sean Singletary had 14 for the Cavaliers, who are now 2-0 going into Sunday’s game at Arizona.

UVa held Richmond to 28% shooting after limiting Liberty to 23% in a 79-44 season-opening triumph last Friday. The defense was especially good at the start as the Spiders bricked 14 of their first 16 shots.

“I thought for the second straight game, except for a stretch at the end of the first half, that we played pretty well defensively,” Leitao said.

The Cavs took a 14-5 lead in the game’s first 11 minutes but failed to pull away because of their own sloppy offense. Richmond then heated up behind the arc, making six 3-pointers to pull within 26-25 at the break.

After switching from zone to man defense, Virginia tightened up again and held the Spiders (1-1) scoreless in the first six minutes of the second half. Richmond did not make a 3-pointer in the half and mustered just six baskets and 18 points.

“They play a funny offense and we felt we could do a better job man to man,” said freshman forward Mamadi Diane , who clamped down on Richmond senior Jermaine Bucknor, who had three 3-pointers in the first half and just one field goal in the second.

Reynolds made a pair of free throws to open the second half and put the Cavalier offense on his back. Coming off screens and burying jumpers, he scored 10 points during a 12-3 run as UVa stretched its lead to double digits. He finished with 16 points in the half.

“I thought J.R. really gave us a lift in the second part of the second half,” Leitao said. “He got more aggressive.”

Virginia outrebounded the Spiders, 39-24, and gave up few offensive boards. Two of Richmond’s points came after a technical foul on Leitao with 12:41 left in the second half. Leitao stomped on the floor and yelled at the officials after Diane was knocked to the floor without a foul called. Leitao also received a tech in his first game following a similar play involving Reynolds.

“I’ve got to wear rubber-soled shoes, I guess,” Leitao joked. “I was just trying to get their attention. … Two T’s in two games is not what I’m trying to do for this team.”

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