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HOW SWEET IT IS! Virginia heads to the Sweet 16 with 63-51 win over Oklahoma

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Diakite has a monster game with 14 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Virginia vs Oklahoma Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

For the third time under Tony Bennett, the Virginia Cavaliers are headed to the Sweet 16 after the Hoos handled the No. 9-seed Oklahoma Sooners, 63-51. Virginia is the fifth ACC team in the Sweet 16, joining Duke, North Carolina, Florida State, and Virginia Tech.

Mamadi Diakite was the star for the Hoos, scoring 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting and adding nine rebounds, three blocks, and a steal. The role players for Virginia were outstanding all game. Braxton Key added nine points, nine rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal in the game, Jay Huff had five points, three rebounds, and a block, and Kihei Clark contributed nine points, two rebounds, and two assists.

Ty Jerome (12 points) and De’Andre Hunter (10 points) also reached double-digit scoring. Kyle Guy struggled with his shooting for the second straight game (four points on 2-for-15 shooting), but added five rebounds and three assists.

The Hoos shot 48% from the field and 29% from three, but held a double-digit lead over the Sooners for most of the game. Virginia finished with six turnovers in the game, including just one after the break.

Oklahoma had a tough day against the Pack Line defense, shooting 37% from the field and 36% from three. Brady Manek and Christian James led the Sooners with 13 points apiece.

Virginia got off to a hot start with three straight buckets on three straight possessions as Hunter connected from three and Jerome hit back-to-back jumpers to give the Hoos a 7-0 lead. Diakite missed Virginia’s first shot of the game — a three attempt — but he made up for it with his second block of the first three minutes.

Clark got lost in the trees for a turnover, and the Sooners got on the board with a three pointer from Brady Manek. Jerome found Diakite for an easy layup, but another Manek three cut Virginia’s lead to 9-6. A layup from Doolittle cut Virginia’s lead to one with 14:35 left in the first half.

After missing its fourth straight basket, Hunter was called for his first foul of the game. Oklahoma was unable to convert the three-pointer, and Braxton Key missed two at the line. The Sooners took their first lead of the game at 11-9 as they continued on an 8-0 run. A jumper from Doolittle made it 13-9, and Salt was called for an offensive foul to give possession back to the Sooners.

A Diakite offensive rebound and put back ended an atrocious 5:22 scoring drought, and Guy tied things up at 13 with a layup in the paint with 9:55 to play. Another Guy layup gave Virginia the lead back at 15-13, and Diakite pushed the lead to four with a tough jumper (after bobbling the ball down low). Manek ended the 8-0 Virginia run with a jumper to pull back within two, but Jay Huff connected with a three to give the Hoos a 20-15 lead with 6:44 to play.

Huff altered a shot on the defensive end before Hunter created a held ball situation. Oklahoma retained possession, but were unable to get a good look as the shot clock dwindled, and Huff got the rebound. On the other end, Huff was able to drive the lane for a monster dunk and a 22-15 lead for the Hoos.

Another defensive stand gave Virginia a chance to build on their lead, and Key delivered with a huge three from the top of the arc that give them a double-digit lead for the first time. Clark was fouled driving to the hoop and made both, but Manek connected on his third three of the half to cut the lead to nine.

Back-to-back takes in the paint from Clark and Key (sandwiched around a defensive stop) gave Virginia a 31-18 advantage with 1:25 to play. Clark telegraphed a lazy pass that led to an easy run out dunk for Doolittle with :41 left that cut Virginia’s lead to 11. A missed shot from Huff gave Oklahoma just enough time to end the half with a layup from Manek, sending the two squads into the break with Virginia leading 31-22.

The Cavaliers got an extremely balanced attack in the first half with seven players scoring between three and six points, led by Diakite with six. He also added a team-high five rebounds, three blocks, and one steal. Key and Huff added five points each, and Clark, Guy, and Jerome all had four.

Virginia had five turnovers in the first half, leading to five points for the Sooners. As a team, the Hoos shot 46% from the field and 30% from three.

Oklahoma shot 31% from the field but went 4-for-12 (33%) from three in the first half as Manek led the Sooners with 13 points on 5-for-9 shooting (3-for-6 from three). The Sooners had four turnovers, and the Cavaliers outscored Oklahoma 16-8 in the paint.

Clark opened the second half with a layup for the Hoos after Diakite kept the possession alive with an offensive rebound. Manek missed wide for the Sooners, and a long two from Hunter put the Hoos on top 35-22. Christian James got the Sooners on the board in the second half with a smooth stop in the lane for a jumper, but Diakite answered with another bucket down low.

Guy missed a three from the corner badly, giving Oklahoma a run out. Odomes missed the initial layup attempt, but followed his own miss for the put back. Diakite flushed home a dunk with authority to put Virginia up 39-26 with 16:28 to play. The two teams continued trading buckets as Doolittle hit a jumper, Diakite got another to go in the lane, and Jamal Bieniemy hit a jumper.

Key pushed the lead back to 13 with 14:35 remaining. Virginia finally got Oklahoma to miss after three straight makes, and Jerome took advantage with a pull up floater from the free throw to give the Hoos their biggest lead of the game to that point. Miles Reynolds got in the score sheet, cutting Virginia’s lead to 45-32. A huge three from Jerome was answered with one from James, but Guy couldn’t get a three from the corner to fall to push the lead further.

After both teams got off to a blistering start to the half, both went on scoring droughts of over three minutes as the score held at 48-35 with Virginia leading. Oklahoma’s James hit two free throws to bring the Sooners back within 11 with 9:02 remaining, and a miss from three from Hunter gave the ball right back to Oklahoma with some momentum. Doolittle would miss a jumper, and Diakite pulled in the long rebound.

Diakite ended a 4:52 scoring drought with his seventh field goal of the game to put Virginia up 50-37 with 7:31 remaining. Another Sooner miss gave Virginia a shot at extending the lead again, and Key corralled an offensive board and drew the foul under the basket. After a long possession, Jerome canned a three from the top of the arc to put Virginia ahead 16.

The two teams got into a three-point shooting contest as Matt Freeman answered Jerome’s with one of his own, Hunter connected on his second of the day, and James hit his second of the game. The Hoos turned the ball over, but Jerome came up with a steal near midcourt, and perfect passing from Hunter and Guy — who went behind the back — found Key for a layup and a 15-point lead.

Key was called for his second foul of the game, and Reynolds made both to make it a 13-point game with just over five minutes to play. A big-time hustle play from Key ended with a rebound and a timeout from Virginia, giving the Hoos possession with a 58-45 lead and the ability to run more time off the clock. Virginia came up empty, but a Key steal on the other end gave the Hoos the ball back with no damage done.

After another empty possession from the Hoos, James hit another three, pulling the Sooners back within 10 with 3:34 remaining. On Virginia’s next offensive set, Jerome found Clark late in the shot clock. The first year confidently shot the ball, connecting on his first three of the game and putting the Hoos up 61-48 with just under three minutes left.

A jumper from Bieniemy cut Virginia’s lead to 11 with 1:35 left, and a miss from Jerome gave Oklahoma the ball with a shot to cut it to single-digits. James’s three went wide, and Key pulled down the critical rebound with 34 seconds left. Virginia broke the press on three subsequent trips (with fouling from Oklahoma to force several inbounds plays), and the last ended with a dunk from Hunter.

Hunter was whistled for his fifth foul, sending Reynolds to the line where he made one. Diakite grabbed the rebound — his ninth — and Virginia ran out the clock with a 12-point win.

Virginia moves on to face the winner of 12-seed Oregon and 13-seed UC Irvine on Thursday in Louisville at approximately 9:59pm.