Playing on the road for the third time in four games and in the state of Florida for the second time in a week, the Virginia basketball team avoided a weary night at Miami on Tuesday. The nation’s newly minted No. 1 team never trailed in a steady 59-50 road victory against the Hurricanes.
The Cavaliers owned a 1-7 record in their previous trips to Coral Gables, but kept up their road warrior status this season with the win. They are 8-1 on the road this season, including 7-0 in league games, to help form an overall record of 24-2 and 13-1 in the ACC. The team heads into an eight-day break having already secured a double bye in the ACC Tournament next month.
”I told our guys we’re not necessarily a knockout punch kind of team, but we just keep chipping away and keep working on both ends of the floor,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network.
That’s exactly the type of effort Virginia cranked out against the Canes. The Hoos steadily pulled away in the final 10 minutes of both halves to get the win thanks to a combination of stingy defense and efficient offense.
In the first half, the visitors grew a one-point lead into as much as a 14-point cushion before leading 27-16 at intermission. The final 10 minutes before the half included a 7:21 stretch where Miami failed to score, while UVA made 5 of 9 shots. The Hurricanes’ 16 points were the fewest allowed by the Hoos in the first half this season.
A slow start to the second half allowed Miami to carve into that advantage, though. By the 9:25 mark, the hosts had climbed back to 38-34 deficit when Sam Waardenburg hit a 3-pointer. Over the next 6:23 of game action, however, the Cavaliers built their lead back to 15 points. While the Hurricanes didn’t mirror the first half in this stretch by going scoreless, they hit 2 of 4 shots and committed three turnovers to help stall their offense. UVA, meanwhile, made 6 of 9 shots with three free throws and no turnovers during that same period.
“I think it’s how we need to win minus the start of the second half,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. ”We had a little lull offensively, defensively they split us [then] but for the most part, we were hard to score against. Our defense was set. We just didn’t give up too many easy shots. There were a couple breakdowns, but that’s going to happen. Then offensively, we moved hard. I think we wore them down. We got the right kind of shots.”
Virginia redshirt freshman De’Andre Hunter played a big part in both half-ending surges. Hunter rattled off seven straight points in the first half to move the margin from 13-12 to 20-12 on the scoreboard. Kyle Guy and Devon Hall followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to really take control.
In the second half when the lead had dwindled to four, Hunter responded again. He ripped off 13 points during UVA’s 17-6 burst that helped put the game in the win column. Those points included a 3-pointer, a hammer dunk, a layup, and another triple as part of a four-point play. Isaiah Wilkins picked up assists on the two inside baskets, while Ty Jerome added helpers on the two long-range jumpers.
Hunter finished with 22 points, a new ACC high, in 30 minutes. He made eight of 16 shots to get there. He added three rebounds, one blocked shot, and one steal too. Wilkins had six points, five rebounds, and three assists, while Jerome tallied six points and seven assists. The rest of the scoring load fell to Guy, who posted 13 points by making five of nine shots. He also had three assists and one steal. He has made a 3-pointer in 26 straight games. In the end, Virginia shot 45.8% and logged 15 assists on 22 made baskets.
UVA also held Miami to 38.3% shooting, the 25th time an opponent fell short of 50% this season. The Hurricanes made just 6 of 21 3-pointers, a low 28.6% mark. Their best success came with point guard Chris Lykes playing off the dribble. He finished with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, while Ebuka Izundu added eight points and five rebounds. When Lykes picked up his fourth foul at the 9:01 mark of the second half with his team down by four points, it helped shut down the hosts’ momentum just long enough for the Hoos to pull away when Hunter got going again.
When asked how the team fought off any lingering effects of Saturday’s loss and fatigue while playing for the third time in seven days when the lead dropped in the second half, Hunter said the team dug in to compete.
”Our team doesn’t want to lose,” Hunter said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. ”Our coaches don’t want to lose and we want to win for them. I think we work too hard to give up leads like that so we just wanted to keep fighting and fight through fatigue and all of that adversity and pull out a win.”
Virginia Basketball Final Stats