The #2 ranked Virginia Cavaliers hosted the #5 ranked Houston Cougars on Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out John Paul Jones Arena crowd of 14,629. This game was only the second matchup between two top-five teams in the Tony Bennett era and the first home game in UVA history against a top-five ranked non-conference opponent.
In the first half, Virginia started the game on a 9-0 run, holding Houston scoreless for the first four minutes of the game. Eventually, Houston finally put up some points thanks to a J’Wan Roberts layup with 16:01 remaining in the half. Virginia was able to hold onto their lead for a little longer but were only able to score five points in almost nine minutes, allowing a J’Wan Roberts dunk to give Houston a 16-15 lead with 8:25 left in the half. For the rest of the half, Virginia was able to keep things close, but they trailed going into the locker room 30-26.
A Jayden Gardner layup to start the second half put UVA within two points of Houston at 30-28, but Virginia would only score two points in the next four and a half minutes, allowing Houston to run away with the game and take a 40-30 lead with 16:03 remaining. Virginia desperately tried to claw back throughout the second half, but Houston’s solid shooting from the field during the closing minutes was enough to silence the crowd and keep UVA from gaining any momentum. Virginia’s best opportunity for a comeback came after a Kihei Clark steal, which led to a layup to put the Hoos within six at 54-48 with 4:05 left in the contest. However, a Jamal Shead layup followed by a Tramon Mark three-pointer was enough to crush any momentum that Virginia thought they had. Houston would finish the game strong and hold on for a 69-61 victory over the Hoos.
Overall, Virginia was led by Kadin Shedrick and Jayden Gardner, who put up 16 and 13 points respectively. Shedrick shot 7/8 from the field with four of those baskets being dunks. Armaan Franklin added 10, and Kihei Clark put up 9 points for the Cavaliers. Freshman Isaac McKneely contributed for the Hoos as well, scoring 9 points off the bench. Transfer Ben Vander Plas played 17 minutes off the bench but was not able to find his rhythm, going 0-7 from the field with six of those shots being missed three-point attempts.
For Houston, the scoring was led by a 17-point effort by freshman forward Jarace Walker. Every Houston starter scored in double figures with guards Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser both scoring 13, Jamal Shead putting up 11, and J’Wan Roberts notching 10. This Houston team, which was ranked #1 in the country just last week before losing to #8 Alabama, has shown that they are still one of the best teams in college basketball with their win over Virginia.
The silver lining for the Hoos is that this is their only loss of the season so far and is against an elite non-conference opponent. Virginia will look to bounce back and improve to 2-0 in conference play on Tuesday night on the road at 8:30 PM against #22 Miami.