Last season, William & Mary upset both Wake Forest and Maryland on the road, and they gave North Carolina serious scare in the NIT. The Tribe, which returned two starters, just couldn’t keep up with the Cavaliers, who lit up the second half to win 76-52. The starting lineup for the Cavaliers included Mike Scott, Assane Sene, Bub Evans, Mustapha Farrakhan and freshman KT Harrell. Harrell becomes the first freshmen to start in a season opener since Sylven Landesberg. Freshman Billy Baron came off the bench shooting 83.3% from the three, and led the Cavaliers with 19 points.
Baron, though, son of Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron, has picked up a thing or two from his dad about the post-game press interview.
"First and foremost, we have a game on Monday. So while it is good to be happy [about the victory], we now have to focus on the team we play Monday."
It was a sluggish start for the Hoos, who went into the locker room at half time only up by one, 28-27, after a 7-0 Tribe run. But Baron sparked the offense in the second half and contributed 13 of the 19-3 run that left the Tribe reeling. In 21 minutes of playing time, Baron put together 19 points, 3 assists, 1 steal and no turnovers. His five threes contributed to Virginia’s 52.2% team three-point shooting percentage (12-23).
"It feels great," Baron said after the game. "We have been here since June 12th, and I have been itching to get on the court. In practice I go against Jontel Evans every day, and he has been preparing me for this moment. I am just grateful to be in this position."
"We’re not going to just shy away from anybody just because we’re freshmen," said freshman Joe Harris. "We’re going to play hard like everyone else."
It’s going to be amazing when, come March, the ACC announces the ACC All-Freshmen team that consists of all Virginia players.
"I definitely did [feel nervous] before the game, but once I got out there the support of my team, family, and coaches was very big. After that first [shot] went down, everything else took care of itself. I talked to my brother before the game and he gave me a lot of confidence. This game is all about confidence."
"I think everyone started off with jitters," senior captain Mike Scott said. "But in the second half we came at them strong. I did not make a lot of shots in the first half and it was frustrating, but I focused on rebounding and defending."
Scott finished the game with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 1 blocked shot and 1 steal.
Evans contributed a career-high 7 assists, and has now recorded at least one steal in 20 games in his career.
"The thing I really like about Jontel is he sets our defense. He pushes our point of attack defensively," Bennett said. "He's had a good offseason, and a good preseason in the fall. He really showed some steadiness and he could change a game with some steals and he gets us down the floor in transition so fast."
Virginia (1-0) will host USC Upstate on Monday at 7:00 p.m., before starting a tough 2.5 week road journey that will take them through California, Hawaii, Minneapolis and finally Blacksburg.