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No. 4 Virginia outlasts a pesky Dayton squad, 66-59, to earn spot in Battle 4 Atlantis championship game

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Hoos will face Wisconsin at 2pm Friday.

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Dayton vs Virginia Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty, but the Virginia Cavaliers pulled out a victory against a physical Dayton squad 66-59. The Hoos earned a spot in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis championship game where they will face No. 25 Wisconsin on Friday.

De’Andre Hunter had a phenomenal game as he scored 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including a back breaking three with :55 left in the game. Hunter went a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line and added six rebounds (five offensive) in the game. Ty Jerome finished with 15 points—all in the second half—and Kyle Guy chipped in 14 on 5-for-11 shooting.

Virginia shot 43% from the field and 35% from three for the game. They turned the ball over nine times, but forced Dayton into 14 turnovers that led to 15 points for the Hoos. Dayton easily got into the lane, scoring 36 points in the paint. While the issues are fixable, it’s an uncommon problem to see from a Tony Bennett squad, even at this early stage of the season.

Dayton played an outstanding game, keeping the pressure on the Hoos for the entirety of the game. Josh Cunningham led the Flyers with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting as Dayton shot a blistering 54% for the game.

After Virginia went 0-for-5 to start the game, Dayton took a 4-0 lead thanks to back-to-back buckets from Trey Landers. Hunter left a layup short and Key missed a three to make it an 0-for-7 start. A three from Jalen Crutcher pushed the Flyers’ lead to 7-0, but Guy broke open the scoring for the Hoos with 15:04 left in the first half. Another offensive rebound pushed Dayton’s lead to 9-3, and Kihei Clark responded with a layup on the other end as the Hoos tried to find a little more rhythm offensively.

Clark buried a three to pull the Hoos within one at 9-8, but a missed assignment on defense led to an easy bucket at the rim for Dayton. Jack Salt stayed with a loose ball on a Virginia miss, tapping it forward to Hunter for an easy layup. Hunter stole the ball on the next play and converted both free throws after being fouled on the way up to the basket to cut the deficit to one at 13-12.

Dayton increased their lead to 15-12 thanks to a loose ball under the basket, but couldn’t get the free throw following the shot. Key finished through traffic off the glass to pull within one once again. Josh Cunningham got one to go over Jay Huff, but Hunter answered on the other end to keep the game close. Virginia took their first lead of the game at 18-17 after Hunter got another offensive rebound—this one off of a miss from Guy—to go.

A phantom foul called on Hunter during a loose ball scramble led to one made Dayton free throw and a 20-18 Virginia lead with just under four minutes to play in the first half. The Flyers tied the game up at 20 on a floater, and yet another broken play on Virginia’s offensive ended with a Hunter offensive rebound and made bucket.

Clark tried to drive the lane and Landers emphatically blocked the ball out of play, but Clark got the last laugh with a deep three to end the same possession. A long two from Guy gave Virginia their largest lead of the half at 27-20 The refs called a nonsensical foul on Mamadi Diakite, allowing Dayton to close the lead to five at the half.

The Cavaliers led at the break despite having more turnovers (five) than assists (four), shooting just 37%, and letting Dayton shoot 53%. Ty Jerome played just seven minutes of the first half thanks to foul trouble and missed both shots he attempted. Hunter led the Hoos with 10 points, and Clark added eight points thanks to his 2-for-3 mark from three. Virginia got 12 points off of 11 turnovers from Dayton, helping the Hoos go into the half with a lead.

Dayton scored the first bucket of the second half, but Hunter answered with a soft kisser off the glass to push Virginia’s lead back to five. The Flyers missed a three pointer on their next possession, and got an extended chance after Guy couldn’t corral the wild rebound off the front iron. Cunningham got a floater to go over Salt, and Jerome continued his cold day with a bricked three on the other end.

Salt played outstanding defense on the baseline as his player stepped on the line for Dayton’s 14th turnover of the day. Jerome made his first three of the game to put the Hoos up 32-26, then gave Virginia their largest lead of the day with two free throws on the next possession after drawing a block call. The Flyers wouldn’t go away, scoring on back-to-back buckets on drives down the lane to make it 34-30.

Hunter hit a long two, and Jerome made one of two from the line to push Virginia’s advantage back to seven. Salt rebounded his own miss and finished at the rim to make it 39-30, then drew a charge down the other end to give possession right back to the Hoos. Dayton was able to steal the ball and lay it in to keep the pressure on. On the next possession, Key kept the play alive with an offensive rebound. Guy missed a corner three, but Hunter corralled another offensive rebound and finished with a dunk.

Just when it was looking like Virginia might be able to create some breathing room, Dayton converted a shot-clock beating prayer to pull back within six points. Clark forced a pass into the middle for a turnover, and Obi Toppin got an easy dunk to make it 41-37. Jerome answered with a corner three, but another missed assignment on a high-ball screen led to an and-one for the Flyers.

Every time Virginia would hit a shot, the Flyers would respond with one of their own. The Hoos pushed the lead back to nine with 9:35 to play thanks to another three from Guy and two more free throws from Hunter. Toppin answered with a long three to keep the Flyers within six yet again.

Dayton made it 52-48 with 7:12 remaining as the Hoos hit another dreaded offensive drought. Jerome ended a 4:22 stretch without a field goal with a runner in the lane, and Toppin kept it a four point game with a jumper over Guy. Two free throws from Jerome put more pressure on Dayton as the seconds ticked off the clock and passed through five minutes. Perfect execution by Toppin made it 56-52 with 4:44 to play.

Hunter converted two more free throws, then Guy out-muscled everyone for a rebound and putback in traffic to give the Hoos an eight point cushion with 3:35 remaining. Virginia came up empty on back-to-back possessions, allowing Dayton to close back within four points with just over a minute remaining. Hunter canned a huge three as the shot clock expired with 55 seconds left on the clock, and the Hoos rebounded a miss by the Flyers on the other end. Jerome was fouled and made one, giving Virginia a more comfortable 64-56 lead.

A deep three on Dayton’s next possession rattled off the rim, and Clark pulled in the rebound among the trees. He made one of two free throws, and Dayton connected on a corner three with 17 seconds left to pull back within three points. Key made one of two, but Jerome pulled in the rebound on the miss and the Hoos were able to run out the clock.

Next up, Virginia plays Wisconsin in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The game tips off at 2pm on Friday and will be on ESPN.