No. 1 seed Virginia beat No. 9 seed Oklahoma 63-51 Sunday night at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C., to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. It is Virginia’s first berth in the Sweet Sixteen since the 2015-16 season.
The Cavaliers (31-3, 16-2 ACC) used a 22-9 run to end the first half to open up a sizable lead over the Sooners (20-14, 7-11 Big 12) and never looked back in the second half.
Junior forward Mamadi Diakite got it done on both ends of the floor. He had a game-high 14 points and tied for a game-high with 9 rebounds. Diakite was also a menace on defense with three blocks.
Virginia won the game despite a poor shooting night from three — the Cavaliers shot just 29.2 percent from behind the arc. They did, however, have 32 points in the paint. Diakite was a big part of the interior scoring effort.
Virginia got off to a fast start, using a 7-0 run to open the game.
Oklahoma sophomore forward Brady Manek ensured the Cavaliers didn’t immediately jump out to a huge lead, scoring the Sooners’ first six points on two threes.
Manek sparked Oklahoma on a 10-0 run. The Sooners ran out to a 13-9 lead, but Virginia immediately responded, going on an 8-0 run to regain the lead at 17-13. The Cavaliers never trailed again.
Diakite and junior guard Kyle Guy did it all on the run, with four points each.
Manek made a layup to cut the score to two, but the Cavaliers weren’t done. They went on another 10-0 run to go up 27-15 with 2:54 to go in the half. The run featured a three-pointer and a decisive dunk from sophomore forward Jay Huff.
On the run, Virginia held Oklahoma without a field goal for 4:34. Manek ended the run with a three-pointer. He was the only player getting anything going on offense for the Sooners, scoring 13 of their 22 points in the first half. Oklahoma, a team that scored 50 points in the first half of their first round game against Ole Miss, had just 22 against Virginia.
The Cavaliers went into the half with a comfortable 31-22 lead behind gritty defense and balanced scoring. Seven players scored for Virginia in the first half, and Huff and junior transfer guard Braxton Key had five points each off the bench.
Virginia started well out of the break.
Diakite continued to dominate out of the break, scoring on three consecutive possessions to put Virginia up 41-28.
Virginia went up 48-32 on a three-pointer from junior guard Ty Jerome, but Oklahoma continued to hang around, never letting the Cavaliers run away with it.
Oklahoma senior guard Christian James was a big reason for this. He had all 13 of his points in the second half, and drained a three with 3:34 left in the game to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 10 at 58-48. It was the smallest deficit in the second half, but the Sooners couldn’t cut it any further.
Freshman guard Kihei Clark made a critical three-pointer to make it 61-48. Clark had 9 points in the game, and was crucial for the Cavaliers on defense.
The Cavaliers cruised the rest of the way to victory.
They did this despite Guy scoring a season-low 4 points. He shot 0-10 from three in the game. However, he did get it done in other ways. Guy had some great passes, including a beautiful behind-the-back dish to set up an easy layup for Key on a fastbreak.
Key was outstanding in the game, tying a game-high with 9 rebounds and shooting a perfect 4-4 from the field en route to 9 points.
It was ultimately a comfortable win for Virginia.
The Cavaliers advance to the Sweet Sixteen to face No. 12 seed Oregon Thursday at 9:57 p.m. in Louisville, Ky.