It certainly was not easy, but the No. 13 Virginia Cavaliers improved to 10-2 on the season with a tense 64-62 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday night. Virginia trailed by 11 with 15:26 to play, but the Hoos doubled the Jackets up 26-13 to close the game and improve to 6-0 in the ACC.
Sam Hauser was electric, scoring 22 points on 9-for-12 shooting. He went a perfect 5-for-5 — including 3-for-3 from three — from the field in the second half and was instrumental in mounting the comeback. Hauser hit 4-of-5 from three for the second game in the row, giving Virginia fans a glimpse of the sharpshooter they expected coming into the season.
Kihei Clark struggled for most of the game, going 1-for-10 from the field with two points, but that one made bucket was the one that broke a 62-62 tie with just over one minute remaining. Jay Huff was fantastic, scoring 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting with five blocks. Three of those blocks came over the final three minutes of the game as Virginia tried to hold onto the lead late.
As a team, Virginia shot 48% from the field and 44% from three. The Hoos turned the ball over nine times — leading to 11 points for GT — but dished 14 assists on 25 made shots.
Georgia Tech shot 60% from three, with Jose Alvarado leading the Jackets with 20 points. Jordan Usher added 19 points, and the two combined to go 6-for-9 from beyond the arc. Alvarado had six of GT’s eight steals.
Tony Bennett kept the starting lineup the same, going with Clark, Reece Beekman, Trey Murphy, Hauser, and Huff.
Georgia Tech jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the first 4:05 of the game as the Virginia offense missed its first four shots. Hauser broke the scoreless drought with a tough layup through contact, but missed the chance to cut the deficit to two as his free throw caromed off the rim. A three from Hauser tied things at five, and strong individual defense from Huff led to a missed shot from GT’s Moses Wright.
An alley-oop to Huff for a reverse slam gave Virginia its first lead of the night and Beekman added to it with a steal and layup in transition as the Hoos went on a 9-0 run that forced Josh Pastner to call a timeout with 13:07 to play. GT retook the lead at 10-9 thanks to a handful of free throws and a made bucket, and Virginia couldn’t connect on a couple attempts from three.
Sloppy offense and strong shooting from Usher pushed GT’s lead to six as the clock hit the halfway mark of the first half before Huff connected on a three to make it 17-14. Another turnover — Virginia’s fifth of the first half — led to an easy bucket for Alvarado, but Morsell answered with a layup to keep the deficit at three.
Murphy’s first three of the game tied things up at 19-19 as the two teams battled back and forth. A block from Huff led to a fast break for the Hoos, and Beekman somehow got the layup to fall through contact to put Virginia back on top by two. Eight straight points from GT — fueled by two three-pointers from Alvarado — put the Jackets back in front by six with 6:13 left in the first half.
Francisco Caffaro broke GT’s 10-0 run with a nifty post move, but the Jackets were able to build their lead to nine with a minute to play as Usher hit his second three of the half. A much-needed Huff three with three seconds left sent the Hoos into the break down 36-32.
Hauser led Virginia in the first 20 minutes with nine points, and Huff added eight. Virginia had six turnovers that led to nine points for GT, and the Hoos shot 50% from the field and 44% from three in the first half. The Yellow Jackets went a blistering 5-for-8 from three (63%) over the first 20 minutes, with both Usher and Alvarado going 2-for-3 from downtown. Usher led GT with 15 first-half points.
Alvarado opened the second half with two made free throws, and then the Virginia offense coughed up its seventh turnover of the game. After Huff got his shot blocked, Alvarado pushed GT’s lead back to nine with his third three of the game. Beekman put the Hoos on the board in the second half with two made free throws, but Moses Wright got an easy dunk to make it 43-34.
Huff answered with a one-handed dunk, and Hauser made a nifty jumper from just outside the lane to bring the Hoos back within five. Usher’s hot hand continued with another make in the lane before a miscommunication between Beekman and Hauser led to a turnover and runout from Alvarado.
Georgia Tech built it’s biggest lead of the game with an alley-oop to make it 49-38 with 15:26 to play. Huff cut the deficit back to single-digits with two free throws, and Beekman found Huff for an alley-oop to make it a seven-point game once again. A terrible defensive breakdown left Wright for a far-too-easy dunk as the two teams traded buckets. Morsell hit a badly-needed three to cut the lead to six with just over 13 minutes remaining.
Both teams hit a cool spell, with neither team scoring for over three minutes of game time. Alvarado broke the drought with his fourth three of the game as GT continued their hot shooting from deep. Virginia couldn’t buy a foul call on the offensive end, struggling to finish through a lot of contact at the rim.
Hauser’s second three of the game cut the deficit to six once more, and he canned another on Virginia’s next possession to make it 54-51 with nine minutes left. A GT bucket and empty possession kept the deficit at five, but a strong defensive stand gave Virginia a chance to cut into the lead once more. Clark and Huff connected for another alley-oop to make it 56-53, and Hauser came up with a timely steal on the defensive end.
Morsell pulled up for a smooth jumper as the Hoos closed within one with 5:46 remaining. Hauser seemingly floated in mid-air with a shot that gave Virginia its first lead since the eight-minute mark of the first half. Another Hauser three — his fourth — gave the Hoos a little breathing room as Virginia came alive on both ends of the court.
Clark couldn’t get his layup to fall, and Michael Devoe kept GT within reach with a three as the clock ticked under three minutes. A clutch step-back two from Huff with three seconds on the shot clock gave the Hoos a three-point lead with 1:39 remaining. Georgia Tech tied things at 62-all with a three with one second on the shot clock, but Clark’s first bucket of the game put Virginia back in front by two.
Huff’s fifth block of the game gave the Hoos a chance to build its lead, but Clark’s three wouldn’t go. GT got one final look to win the game, but the attempt fell harmlessly as Virginia was able to leave the court with a win.
The Hoos have a quick turnaround as they host Syracuse on Monday night at 7pm. The Orange are coming off of a win over No. 16 Virginia Tech.