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No. 9 Virginia stays perfect with 60-42 win over Columbia

Hoos improve to 3-0 on the season.

NCAA Basketball: Columbia at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 9 Virginia Cavaliers improved to 3-0 on the season on Saturday afternoon with a 60-42 win over the Columbia Lions. Three Virginia players finished in double digits as Jay Huff and Mamadi Diakite each had 13 points, and Kihei Clark added 10 points and five rebounds. Huff had a big day defensively as he matched his career-high in blocks with five.

Virginia shot 41% from the field and an improved 36% from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers got 20 points off the bench and 30 points in the paint, but still struggled getting shots to drop at times.

The Virginia defense gave up a season-high 42 points, but held the Lions to just 29% shooting from the field. Mike Smith led the way for the Lions with 16 points. Columbia turned the ball over 16 times, leading to eight points for Virginia. The Lions were active on the glass, pulling down 12 offensive boards and getting 10 second chance points.

Tomas Woldetensae got his first points as a Cavalier as he opened scoring with a three-pointer. Diakite extended the lead to 5-0 with a put-back at the rim, and the defense made everything difficult for Columbia. Kody Stattmann converted a bucket and knocked down the follow up free throw, and another Diakite jumper made it a 10-0 Virginia lead with 15:55 to play.

Columbia got its first bucket on a layup from Jake Killingsworth 4:37 into the game. Mike Smith cut the lead to 10-4 with a tough bucket over strong defense from Kihei Clark, and the Cavaliers turned it over on their next possession as the Lions attempted to cut into the deficit further.

Jay Huff entered the game, immediately making a jumper and pushing Virginia ahead 12-5. A free throw from Key and another jumper from Huff pushed the Hoos lead to eight.

Virginia’s lead ballooned to 12 after a nifty reverse dunk by Huff off of an alley-oop pass from Clark and a layup and three from Clark with 7:37 to play in the first half. Columbia kept things within striking distance with some timely threes, but Diakite made it 25-15 with a three from the corner.

Clark had things clicking offensively as dished another alley-oop to Huff and called his own number for a jumper, putting Virginia up 29-15. Smith had another nice take to the rack, but Casey Morsell answered with one of his own to push the lead back to 14 points with 1:19 left in the first half.

Virginia would take a 31-17 lead into the break, led by Huff with eight points and four rebounds. Clark and Diakite added seven points apiece, with Clark dishing four assists in the first half and Diakite leading the team with five rebounds. The Hoos shot 46% in the first half and a much improved 3-for-5 (38%) from three. Virginia took much better care of the ball with just three first half turnovers.

Columbia went just 7-for-28 (25%) from the field in the first half, led by Smith with seven points on 3-for-8 shooting. The Virginia defense registered six blocks in the first half and forced seven turnovers.

Virginia opened the second half on a 10-6 run, with Columbia hitting two threes to keep things within reach at 41-23. Huff canned a three at the top of the arc, and Key hit a layup sandwiched between two makes from Columbia’s Ike Nweke. A jumper from Smith cut Virginia’s lead to 17, but Clark connected on a second chance three to put the Hoos up 49-29.

Diakite corralled a miss from Huff for a put-back to make it 55-29 with 7:44 remaining in the game, sending some fans for the exits to get a start on the rest of their Saturday afternoon. Francisco Caffaro entered the game with 7:01 left in the game, making his Virginia debut. He would score his first point as a Cavalier from the free throw line to make it 56-36. Chase Coleman and Caffaro would score the last two buckets of the game, both their first field goals as Cavaliers.

Coleman came in midway through the second half and got some solid burn at the point guard position, finishing with a steal. That will be an important position to watch as Clark is carrying the brunt of the minutes at point guard. Coleman finished with two points, an assist, and a steal in four minutes.

Free throw shooting was a real problem on the afternoon as the Hoos went 7-for-14 (50%) from the line. Obviously, it wasn’t a huge factor against Columbia, but they have to improve there as the season progresses.

Next up, Virginia hosts the dangerous Vermont Catamounts on Tuesday, November 19. The game is set for a 7pm tip.