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No. 7 Virginia takes down Maine, 46-26, despite struggling offense

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Maine becomes Virginia’s third opponent this season to fail to reach 40 points.

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

The No. 7 Virginia Cavaliers improved to 7-0 (1-0 ACC) with a sleepy win over Maine, 46-26. Mamadi Diakite paced Virginia with 15 points, followed by Jay Huff with 13. Kihei Clark dished five assists, and added nine points on 3-for-4 shooting beyond the arc.

Once again, offense was the issue as the Cavaliers shot 39% from the field and 33% from three (6-for-18). Tony Bennett went deep into his bench Wednesday afternoon as the Cavaliers were short handed on the afternoon. Kody Stattmann is still recovering from the illness that has sidelined him for four games, and Braxton Key is out indefinitely after injuring his wrist against Arizona State. As a result, Chase Coleman (11 minutes) and Jayden Nixon (10 minutes) saw extensive playing time for the Hoos.

Fortunately for Virginia, Maine is one of the more offensively challenged teams in the country. The Black Bears shot just 19% from the field and 19% from three, becoming the third opponent on the season to fail to reach 40 points. Vilgot Larsson led the Bears with nine points. The Virginia defense was outstanding, forcing 21 turnovers, grabbing nine steals, and blocking three shots.

Huff, got things going for the Cavaliers with a three from the top of the arc. After each team came up empty on the next eight combined possessions, Huff added a right handed hook shot to put the Hoos up 5-0. Maine’s first basket — a three from Vilgot Larsson — came with 15:46 to play on the clock. Virginia responded with a no-look alley-oop from Clark to Huff, giving Virginia a 7-3 lead with the 7-1 big man scoring all the points.

Diakite got involved in the fun with a bucket in the paint after backing his man down, and Casey Morsell drove the lane for an easy layup to make it 11-3. Maine added two free throws to cut slightly into the lead before Clark connected for a three.

Sergio El Darwich got Maine’s second field goal of the half with 11:36 left on the clock, and a free throw from Diakite put the Hoos up by seven. Virginia went on a mini scoring drought, missing six straight shots over a seven minute span. Maine cut the lead to five with its second three of the half, and Morsell responded with a tough drive that drew a foul and two free throws. He made both, putting Virginia up 17-10 with 5:49 to play in the half.

Diakite drove the lane, taking contact and finishing the tough bucket with the foul. He tacked on the free throw to once again double up the Bears, then forced a turnover that he slammed home with a dunk for a 22-10 lead.

Virginia would get just one more bucket — a layup from Diakite — and the Black Bears completed the four-point play after McKoy fouled a three point shooter with 10 seconds left. The Hoos headed into the half with a 24-14 lead, despite Maine’s 10 first half turnovers and 19% shooting from the field.

The Cavaliers shot 39% from the field in the first half, but made just two of the 11 three point attempts (18%). Diakite led the way for Virginia with 10 points, followed by Huff with seven. Tony Bennett played nine different players in the first half, including walk on players Chase Coleman and Jayden Nixon.

Diakite opened the second half with a steal, ending with a three from Clark that pushed the lead to 13 points. Maine responded with a backdoor cut for an easy lay up and cut the deficit to single digits with its fourth three of the game. Virginia rattled off five quick points thanks to a three from Diakite and a steal by Clark that led to a trail dunk from Diakite.

Virginia’s defense notched it’s third shot clock violation of the game, leading to an offensive possession that ended with another three from Clark to put the Hoos up 35-19. Two free throws from the Bears ended a 3:08 scoring drought, and they added a dunk to make it 35-23 with 11:38 to play.

Huff added a point at the free throw line, and Maine had a three-pointer taken off the board thanks to a shot clock violation that kept the gap at 13 with just over 10 minutes left in the game. Huff broke a 5:49 field goal drought with a bucket and made the free throw, but Andrew Fleming responded with a three to keep the pressure on.

After a handful of empty possessions for both teams, Huff took it himself under the basket for a layup. Woldetensae finally got one to go for three, giving Virginia a 44-26 lead with 4:57 left on the clock. Coleman would add the last basket with 18 seconds on the clock.

After the Thanksgiving break, Virginia heads to Mackey Arena to face Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on December 4.