Coming off a dominating 89-54 victory against Towson, No. 4 Virginia faced off against San Francisco in their second and final game in the Bubbleville series Friday. At the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., the Cavaliers (1-1, 0-0 ACC) were downed by the Dons (2-1, 0-0 WCC) by a score of 61-60 in a shocking upset.
Though Virginia was originally scheduled to match up against Florida, the game was canceled due to the Gators announcing that they would halt activities due to positive COVID-19 test results. The Cavaliers were forced to deal with a similar scenario on Wednesday as they were originally slated to play Maine, but ended up facing Towson due to coronavirus complications.
Virginia was shrouded with struggles on the offensive end of the floor for a majority of the game. The starting five for the Cavaliers featured junior guard Kihei Clark, sophomore guard Casey Morsell, senior forward Sam Hauser, sophomore forward Justin McKoy and senior forward Jay Huff.
“I would say that the first game [against Towson] we started off very hot and it seemed like we almost couldn’t miss,” McKoy said. “This game it became a little more difficult, we didn’t shoot it as well.”
Virginia got off to a hot start after jumping out to an early 9-2 lead against the Dons, featuring five quick points from McKoy. However, as the half approached the midway point, San Francisco managed to tie things up at 11-11.
On the Dons next possession, senior guard Jamaree Bouyea drilled a three-pointer to deliver the lead to San Francisco, 14-11. The bucket was a part of an 11-0 run for the Dons and contributed to Bouyea’s team-leading eight points going into halftime.
The Cavaliers’ abysmal shooting stretch continued as the team trailed 19-15 with 4:58 remaining in the first period. As the half wound down, Virginia had only made one of their last 16 field goal attempts.
In spite of this, a pair of free throws from junior guard Trey Murphy followed up with a corner three-pointer by freshman guard Reece Beekman allowed the Cavaliers to retake the lead, 20-19.
Virginia closed out the first half with a 24-21 lead as both the Cavaliers and the Dons shot a woeful 28 percent from the floor.
Coming into the second half, Virginia appeared to have more rhythm in the early going after scoring four points on their first two possessions. The Dons, however, stayed in the mix with an 11-0 run, catapulting San Francisco back into the lead, 32-28.
The remainder of the half followed a similar back-and-forth dynamic as the teams were deadlocked at 39 a piece with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The Cavaliers appeared to be pulling away after senior guard Tomas Woldetensae connected with a three-pointer and followed it up with another bucket to put Virginia in the lead 44-39.
Yet with about eight minutes to go, San Francisco junior guard Khalil Shabazz hit a massive three-pointer while simultaneously drawing a foul against Clark. Shabazz made the ensuing free throw to cut the Cavalier lead to 44-43.
The two squads remained neck and neck with Virginia nursing a 54-53 lead as Hauser heated up with back-to-back jump shots. With the game appearing as if it would come down to the wire, the Dons hit their stride late with an 8-0 run that placed them in a commanding position.
Two straight three-pointers for San Francisco from Shabazz and senior forward Taavi Jurkatamm were key to the run, allowing the Dons to build a 61-54 lead with just over two minutes remaining.
Coming out of a timeout, the Cavaliers proved that they would fight until the end, quickly trimming the San Francisco lead down to 61-58.
A possession later, McKoy scored a layup at the rim with contact to bring the game within a point. There was bit of controversy surrounding the play, as some believed that the contact warranted a shooting foul, meaning McKoy could have been sent to the foul line for an additional free throw attempt to tie the game.
With just 10 seconds remaining in the game, Virginia fouled sophomore forward Josh Kunen in order to preserve time for a final possession. Kunen went on to miss the ensuing free throw attempt, allowing Huff to secure the defensive rebound.
As the Cavaliers quickly sprinted down the floor to get off a final shot, the ball ended up in the hands of Hauser who quickly shot a contested three-pointer as time expired. The shot clanged off the rim, securing a 61-60 victory for the Dons.
Though the teams shot a similar field goal percentage, with Virginia at 41 percent and San Francisco at 40 percent, the Dons outscored the Cavaliers from the three-point line significantly. San Francisco connected on 13 of 28 three-point attempts while Virginia made just three the entire game.
“They made enough big plays and we had enough breakdowns,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “They ran good offense, and whenever we broke down or weren’t sound, they took advantage of it because of their ability to shoot and their quickness with their guards.”
Bouyea and Shabazz led the Dons with 19 and 14 points, respectively, while McKoy and Beekman had the most points for the Cavaliers with 11 a piece.
“We have to keep being as good as we can be,” Bennett said. “We gotta harden up, we gotta get gritty, we gotta be tougher to score against and be the best versions of ourselves.”
Virginia will look to bounce back against St. Francis in Charlottesville Tuesday. The Red Flash downed ACC foe Pittsburgh Wednesday and will look to defeat a second Power 5 opponent. Tip-off at John Paul Jones Arena is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.