Charlottesville, VA– Two teams that competed last year in the NCAA tournament usually do not meet each other so early in the season, and two teams that lost to Duke by less than ten points each, rarely do. On Sunday afternoon, a crowd of 14,242 packed JPJ to see UVA and Yale in an interesting match up. Virginia had its first small test of the season in the first half, but surged in the second to decisively win, 62-38.
The play in the first half did not represent the blow out that the final score did. Offensively, the Cavaliers struggled early, plagued by missed threes and turnovers. Coach Bennett commented, “Our impatience offensively affected us. Our offense was a little quick- some of those were good shots- but we weren’t willing to break them down and get the good looks.”
The Bulldogs came into the game averaging 93.5 points per game and played basket for basket with Virginia, earning a five-point lead with ten minutes remaining in the first half.
It took what Virginia is known for to turn that around. A defensive stop that led to an air ball by Yale’s Austin Williams at 9 minutes, gave them exactly what they needed. From there, London Perrantes scored his first three pointer at JPJ this season, while Jarred Reuter scored on a lay up.
UVA began its route after another key defensive play in the first half. On a breakaway for Yale, Isaiah Wilkins stopped the easy basket, which was rebounded by the Bulldogs. Mamadi Diakite blocked the second shot attempt, sending a roar through JPJ. After 25 seconds of Tony Bennett Defense, the Bulldogs turned the ball over, as it fell right into Wilkins’ hands.
Marial Shayok then added five points and the Hoos went into halftime up 28-21. In the second half, UVA’s defense shut down Yale’s Blake Reynolds and Sam Downey, holding the entire team scoreless for 9 minutes.
Virginia’s offensive woes were finally over too. As the first player off the bench, Shayok contributed from behind the arc and in the paint, scoring 15 points. Coach Bennett commented on the advantages of having Shayok as that sixth man. “He brings a scoring punch. He’s a hard playing defender and offensively he’s aggressive.”
As Austin Nichols’ dismissal loomed over the team, the players are determined not to let it affect their play. London Perrantes commented, “It was a tough loss for us, but we can’t dwell on it now. We have to move forward.”
Without Nichols, other players had the opportunity to show off their talent. Freshman Kyle Guy scored two three pointers within minutes of each other, finishing the day with 12 points. Diakite, also, contributed four blocks to shut down the bulldogs.
Guy’s scoring and Diakite’s rim protection adds to Virginia’s depth on the bench. Coach Bennett said that, “they both gave us a really nice lift.”
Virginia’s adjustment to the loss of Nichols affected them slightly in the first half. Once they settled into the offense, though, the four other players in that position showed that the Hoos will be okay. Coach Bennett said it, “presents some challenges for sure, but we’ll just keep adjusting.” They play again on Tuesday night against Grambling State.