It was the tale of two halves as the No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers outlasted a hot second-half shooting performance form Vermont to win 61-55. Virginia improved to 4-0 (1-0 ACC) with the win, and had three players score in double digits in the win.
Mamadi Diakite led the way for Virginia with 19 points, followed by Kihei Clark with 15 and Braxton Key with 14. Clark went 3-for-4 from beyond the arc as the Hoos shot 35% from three. As a team, Virginia shot 47% from the field, including 51.9% in the second half. The Virginia offense has struggled at times, but responded when pressed by the Catamounts.
Vermont’s Anthony Lamb was fabulous, going 10-for-21 in the game, including 7-for-14 from three, for 30 points. Virginia was able to lock down for the last 5:25, holding him scoreless down the stretch. Vermont shot 38% from the field — the first time an opponent broke 30% against the Hoos this season — and went 12-for-34 (35%) beyond the arc. Stef Smith was the only other Vermont player with more than five points, finishing with 13.
Kody Stattmann missed the game for Virginia with an illness, and Huff got the start in his stead. Huff finished with nine points and seven rebounds in his first career start.
Vermont got the starting bucket on a weird play in which Stef Smith attempted a lob to Daniel Giddens. Huff got a hand on the ball, but it deflected through the hoop. Lamb doubled the lead with a long two, and Virginia started the game with three turnovers on four possessions. Smith made it a 7-0 lead for the Catamounts with a triple with 17:35 to play.
Diakite opened the scoring for Virginia with a much-needed triple from the corner. After a quick defensive stop, Diakite cut the deficit to 7-5 with a long two. Key tied the game at seven with a drive in the lane against Lamb, and gave Virginia its first lead with the ensuing free throw.
Clark buried a three to push the Hoos up 11-7, and Casey Morsell drew an offensive foul to give Virginia a chance to build the lead further. Another Virginia turnover — this one on Huff — gave the ball back to Vermont, but the Catamounts came up empty late in the shot clock. Diakite’s second three of the game pushed Virginia’s scoring run to 14-0 with 9:25 left in the first half.
Ryan Smith ended a nearly nine minute scoring drought for Vermont with a three to make it 14-10. Morsell had a triple from the corner waved off thanks to an offensive foul call against Key, but he connected on a long two with 6:42 remaining to put Virginia up by six.
The teams traded buckets before Woldetensae found Huff for an easy dunk that pushed the lead to eight with just over three minutes to play. Key tacked two free throws onto Virginia’s led before Smith’s second three of the game cut the deficit back to seven points.
Woldetensae connected on a two-pointer just inside the old three-point line, but Lamb hit a three over Diakite’s outstretched arm to send the two teams to the halftime break with Virginia leading 24-18.
Diakite led the Cavaliers with 10 points in the first 20 minutes as Virginia shot 41% from the field and 25% from three. Woldetensae was all over the boards with six first half rebounds, and Key had five points and three assists to go with four turnovers. Virginia turned the ball over seven times in the first half, leading to five points for the Catamounts.
Vermont shot 30% from the field and 29% from three, led by Smith’s six points. Virginia did a nice job holding Lamb in check as he finished the half with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting. He also had four of Vermont’s seven turnovers.
Lamb picked up where he left off, backing down Diakite under the basket for an easy layup and cutting the lead to four. Virginia came up empty on their first four trips offensively, and Vermont made it a one-point game with another three from Smith. Key scored the first Virginia bucket of the second half to make it 26-23 with 16:28 remaining in the game.
Another jumper from Lamb kept the pressure on Virginia, and the Catamounts re-took the lead for the first time since it was 7-5 in the first half after a Lamb three from the corner. Clark answered with a three of his own to make it 29-28 in favor of the home crowd on the next possession. After a defensive stand by the Hoos, Key found Diakite for a dunk, but Lamb tied things at 31 with his third three of the second half.
Things kept see-sawing back and forth as Lamb connected with another three, giving Vermont a 34-31 advantage with 12:09 remaining. Diakite tied it up once again on the next possession after an offensive rebound kept the play alive.
Lamb started channeling his inner Carsen Edwards with his fifth and sixth threes of the half around a Clark layup. Huff tied things at 40 with an alley-oop, but Robin Duncan hit a three from the corner. Clark’s third three of the game knotted things up once again, and Vermont turned the ball over to give the Hoos a chance at retaking the lead.
A Key three briefly put the Hoos up, but — you guessed it — Lamb hit another to tie things once again at 46. Clark took it to the rim again to restore a two point lead before a called foul on a three-point attempt from Lamb gave Vermont a 49-48 advantage. Huff found Diakite for a layup and lead, and strong defense from Diakite gave the ball back to the Hoos.
Huff deposited a miss from Morsell for a three-point lead for Virginia, and Morsell played stellar defense in the half-court to force another Vermont turnover. On the ensuing possession, Key canned a three in rhythm to put the Hoos up 55-49 with 4:20 left in the game.
The Virginia defense stood tall as they extended to an eight point lead, but Smith cut the advantage back to six with 1:47 remaining. Huff split a pair at the line to make it a 58-51 Virginia lead as the clock ticked through a minute. Davis drove the lane for a two that cut the lead to five, and Vermont fouled Clark with 35 seconds left on the clock.
Clark missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the Catamounts couldn’t connect on a pair of three-point attempts to cut into the lead further. Key was fouled after a rebound, making one and giving the Hoos a six point advantage with 18 seconds left. Vermont would come up empty again, and Clark sealed the game at the line with two free throws.
Next up, Virginia heads to Uncasville, CT, for the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off Tournament where the Hoos will face UMass at noon on Saturday.