No. 4 men’s basketball defeats Dayton 63-56, advances to Battle 4 Atlantis Championship

The Cavaliers overcame first half shooting struggles to beat the Flyers behind Hunter’s 23 points

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Sophomore forward De'Andre Hunter led the Cavaliers with 23 points Thursday afternoon against Dayton.

In a matchup of two undefeated teams, the No. 4 Virginia men’s basketball team beat Dayton 66-59, advancing to the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas in a hard-fought game.

The Cavaliers (5-0) were led by sophomore forward De’Andre Hunter, who followed up two consecutive 15 and 20-point efforts with 23 against the Flyers (4-1). The 23 points tied Hunter’s career high.

Virginia started off slow, going the first four minutes without a point and shooting 0-7 from the field. Dayton jumped out to a 7-0 lead, before junior guard Kyle Guy ended their run with a three-pointer.

The game continued to go back-and-forth, with the Cavaliers’ shooting woes continuing. They went 4-5 after starting 0-7 from the field, but then had another drought, missing their next five shots after cutting Dayton’s lead to one.

Virginia didn’t lead until 6:01 left in the first half, with Hunter converting a putback layup to make it 18-17.

The Cavaliers continued to open their lead at the end of by creating turnovers. Virginia went into the half up 27-22, despite shooting just 37 percent in the first half. Hunter and freshman guard Kihei Clark led the way in scoring with 10 and eight, respectively.

The second half was a battle to the end, but Virginia ultimately pulled off the victory.

The Cavaliers never led by double digits in the second half, but the Flyers never came closer than 3 points. Virginia had a nine-point lead two times in the half, but Dayton fought back both times.

The crucial moment came with 1:07 left in the game. Dayton had cut the score to four again with 1:32 remaining, 60-56 — the Cavaliers needed to make a play to ice the game.

After a well-defended possession, Hunter had to shoot a three-pointer from the corner as the shot clock was expiring. He drained it, tying his career high and all but assuring Virginia would move on to the final.

While Hunter, who also had six rebounds, was the star of the day, Virginia’s backcourt also stepped up.

Junior guard Ty Jerome had 15 points, all in the second half, and Guy finished with 14. Jerome, Guy, and Hunter accounted for 52 of Virginia’s 66 points.

The Cavaliers’ opponent in the final is against No. 25 Wisconsin, who cruised by Oklahoma 78-58 in the other semifinal.

Last year when the two teams met, Virginia won 49-37. The similar defensive-minded styles of the Cavaliers and the Badgers should make for a fascinating matchup.

Tip-off is tomorrow at 2 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.

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