In an absolutely-critical contest in Coral Gables, Virginia walked away tonight winners of a tough road victory against the University of Miami Hurricanes. The Hoos scored confidently in the second half and hit enough free throws late to secure an extremely important win for their NCAA tournament hopes.
The Hoos Weathered an Early Storm
Miami started the game shooting extremely well. 10 minutes into the first half, the Canes were shooting 60% from 3, 53% overall, and had forced the Hoos into three turnovers. Thankfully for Wahoo fans, UVA used efficient scoring and excellent free throw shooting to hang tough in the first quarter of the game - shooting at a 63.6% clip - and even added a timely three from Armaan Franklin to their early scoring. Despite Miami seemingly to be controlling the momentum early, Virginia was only down 23-25 ten minutes into the contest.
Only One Scoring Drought
After Miami’s hot start, Virginia’s defense was able to stifle the Canes for much of the second quarter of the game. Rather than take advantage of that opportunity, the Hoos closed out the first half with their own five minute scoring drought, leading to a sudden 8 point deficit at the half. Luckily for the Hoos, they started the 2nd half on a 17-4 run to retake the lead when it mattered most. The confident scoring continued throughout the second half for the Hoos and they avoided any dreaded scoring droughts to keep the Canes at bay.
UVA Played to Their Strengths and Enjoyed a Few Welcome Surprises
Jayden Gardner’s ability to convert mid range jumpers continues to be UVA’s best scoring option. However, the Hoos also benefitted from some not-so characteristic outside shooting in the second half. Kihei Clark was not deterred by the one UM fan paying enough attention to chant airball consistently, as he knocked down three second half shots from deep. Most of the Hoos’ points from the freethrow line came in the first half, but they continued their impressive season-long display there by converting 19 of 25 for the game.
Speaking of things a little outside of the usual keys to victory for Virginia: how about this performance from Kody Stattmann? The Aussie wing gave easily his best work in ACC play this year while on the court for most of the second half, he provided so key defensive plays including 2 blocks, 4 rebounds, and 8 critical points. It was wonderful to see from the senior and his performance was a big part in UVA’s victory this evening.
Virginia’s Tournament Resume Improved
The NCAA Tournament Committee loves quality road wins (and particularly quality road wins later in the season it seems) - and this was a massive win for the Hoos to pair with their victory against Duke. While there is a ton of work to do still with three regular season games remaining, after dropping an enormous opportunity earlier this week in Blacksburg, this road victory will really help the Hoos’ case to receive an at-large bid in March.
Virginia has another big opportunity in their next game: once again facing the conference-leading Blue Devils. If they can add another win against Duke to their resume, Tony Bennett’s team will immediately find themselves more likely in tournament projections than not and with a ton of momentum heading into their final two regular season games before the ACC tournament.