The Virginia basketball team battled foul trouble, poor shooting, and at least a little illness Tuesday night on the road. Perhaps, that didn’t leave enough fuel in the tank to battle Boston College too. The Cavaliers, after all, left coach Tony Bennett seemingly a little bewildered at their effort and energy levels as the Eagles pulled out a 60-53 win in the final minute.
UVA trailed by as many as 12 points before rallying for a second half lead, only to see it disappear against one final BC run. This team has lost two of of its three true road games, the lone win being the season opener at Syracuse. Those teams wage a rematch Saturday at the JPJ.
“I thought we played with such great heart and passion and intensity against Virginia Tech and I did not see that and the way it had to be here,” Bennett said. “You’re on the road, but all the more you have to bring a composure and an effort level that just kind of seemed like it was lukewarm tonight for sure.”
The Cavaliers did not appear sharp early and spent most of the night trying to catch up as a result. Some clear signs of the sort of lethargic look of things were there instantly.
UVA committed four fouls on its first defensive possession of the game for example; two of those were on Mamadi Diakite, who sat for some time before returning in the first half. On the other end, the Hoos scored on their first possession with a Diakite bucket, but then missed seven straight shots before being rescued by the media timeout. Those misfires included some jumpers, but also two missed layups.
The latter provided some unfortunate foreshadowing for the night ahead.
After Boston College moved ahead in the early going, it kept fending off Virginia’s surge attempts for much of the game’s middle 20 minutes. The Eagles led by as many as 10 points in the first half and grew their advantage to 12 points in the first 6:08 of the second half, thanks in part to back-to-back buckets that included a banked in 3-pointer.
That fortuitous glass shot seemed to finally spark the visitors, though. After that Jay Heath triple banked in, Virginia responded with a 20-5 burst that featured increased intensity and better offense. The Cavaliers quickly turned a 40-30 deficit into a 50-45 lead as a result.
Much of the better offense in that stretch stemmed from Kody Stattmann, who finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in 39 minutes. Stattmann drove for a bucket, dished off to Jay Huff for another, and then converted a runner off the glass to start the 20-5 run, before he later added a spinning layup as well.
“The bright spot was Kody Stattmann,” Bennett said. “I thought he showed some nice things in that game.”
After Stattmann started the flurry, Kihei Clark finally leveled the scoreboard again with a 3-pointer at the 7:09 mark and UVA retook the lead for the first time since the opening bucket when Diakite scored on a Clark assist in transition less than 20 seconds later. With the lead finally in hand and the stretch run on the table, however, Virginia couldn’t cap off the comeback.
With a five-point edge entering the final 5:30, the Hoos didn’t put together the right mix of offense and defense to get the win.
Defensively, that included Heath getting a shot in over Clark’s defense with a traditional three-point play free throw to boot and another Heath layup too. He also created the go-ahead bucket when he drove again and then kicked out to Jared Hamilton for a lightly contested 3-pointer that made it 56-53 BC with 38 seconds to go. Heath posted 17 points and 2 assists as he stepped in for the team’s leading scorer Derryck Thornton, who sat out the game along with Nik Popovic. Jared Hamilton had 16 points, while brother Jairus Hamilton added 10. Steffon Mitchell also had 10 points, including free throws to ice the win.
Of course, UVA might have overcome it all if the offense had delivered in the final minutes. Instead, the Hoos left a lot on the table down the stretch. Among a stretch of seven possessions, Virginia posted a missed layup, a blocked layup, 1 of 2 free throws, a turnover, a missed layup, a made layup, and another missed layup. There’s the foreshadowing that came home to roost. Clark missed three of those layups, while Braxton Key followed a driving layup that tied the game at 53-53 at the 1:38 mark with a drive from the same spot that produced a missed reverse attempt for the lead on the next trip down the floor.
“Braxton plays hard. He’s always on the glass. He had a nice outside drive at the end and we thought that was one and the up and under had trouble,” Bennett said. “We had some trouble finishing. Kihei had some trouble. He got in there and finishing some of those layups – against Virginia Tech, he was terrific, well he wasn’t as much tonight getting in there. … The tape’s going to reveal some things that are going to sting and hurt, but you move on and get ready for the next one.”
Key finished with 16 points and 8 rebounds, but also fell on his still splinted left wrist that required surgery last month. He left the game in that final minute and didn’t return with no word on his status. Clark ended up with 11 points, 3 assists, and 2 turnovers on 2-of-11 shooting. Diakite and Huff added 9 and 5 points, respectively.