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No. 15 Virginia needs overtime to finish off Kent State, 71-64

Three players finish in double digits for Virginia in the narrow win.

Towson v Virginia Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Exactly 46 years after their first meeting, the Virginia Cavaliers took down the visiting Golden Flashes from Kent State, 71-64. The No. 15 Cavaliers needed an extra five minutes to secure the victory against the Golden Flashes, with Sam Hauser scoring six of the nine points in overtime. Virginia led 62-59 with five seconds left before Kent State’s Danny Pippen connected on a game-tying three as the buzzer sounded inside the mostly-empty John Paul Jones Arena.

The Golden Flashes had four shots in OT before Virginia even had a possession, but Hauser made a layup and a three to put the game out of reach. Kent State went 1-for-11 from deep in OT.

The Cavaliers once again looked lethargic on defense and lost on offense. They turned the ball over 12 times, leading to 17 points for Kent State. Michael Nuga led the visiting Golden Flash with 20 points, connecting on 4-of-13 attempts from beyond the arc. Several times, Virginia defenders got completely lost, leaving players open for good looks at the basket.

Hauser and Jay Huff led Virginia with 18 points apiece, and Kihei Clark added 14. Hauser and Clark combined for seven assists and three turnovers, while Huff added two blocks and three players (Tomas Woldetensae, Reece Beekman, and Trey Murphy) had two steals apiece.

Virginia improved to 3-1 on the season with the win, but only the opening game against Towson has been really convincing. The shooting for the Cavaliers wasn’t terrible as Virginia went 48% from the field and 39% from three, but the inexcusable turnovers and defensive breakdowns let Kent State stay in the game.

Kent State had 10 offensive rebounds in the game and outscored the Hoos 28-24 in the paint.

Virginia led by seven at the break, 29-22, with Hauser and Huff leading the team with seven points apiece. The Hoos shot 46% from the field over the first 20 minutes and connected on 5-of-13 (38%) from deep. Kent State pulled down four offensive rebounds in the first half, leading to six points (27% of their scoring).

The Hoos started the second half with a turnover on their opening possession, but Clark gave Virginia its biggest lead of the game at nine with 18:04 to play. Kent State would score the next six straight points to climb back within one possession before Casey Morsell ended the scoring drought with a layup to make it 35-30. Back-to-back threes from Nuga around two free throws from Clark cut Virginia’s lead to one.

An offensive foul on Kadin Shedrick gave the Golden Flash the ball back, and they promptly retook the lead at 38-37 with 12:53 to play. After Murphy tied the game at the free throw line, Hauser answered a Kent State bucket with a three-pointer to jump ahead by one. A Beekman steal and score pushed the advantage to three, but a three led to yet another tie. The two teams traded buckets and leads before a layup from Nuga gave Kent State a four-point lead with four minutes to play.

Clark scored six of Virginia’s last 10 points in regulation — four of which came at the free throw line — as the Cavaliers forced Kent State to foul. Four KSU players would eventually foul out of the game in OT as they fouled down the stretch.

Tony Bennett is clearly still figuring out lineups as he whittled it down to nine players this game. The odd COVID-affected preseason with no scrimmages or exhibition games has clearly impacted play early, and the Hoos have already had two games — William and Mary and Wake Forest — postponed due to coronavirus issues in those programs.

Next up, Virginia hosts No. 8 Michigan State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game is scheduled for 9:15pm and will be broadcast on ESPN.