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No. 16 men’s basketball returns to action with convincing 76-40 win over William & Mary

The Cavaliers were efficient on both ends of the floor — a promising sign heading into a showdown with No. 1 Gonzaga

<p>Sam Hauser chipped in nine points on three of seven shooting from deep.&nbsp;</p>

Sam Hauser chipped in nine points on three of seven shooting from deep. 

No. 16 Virginia men’s basketball returned from their coronavirus-related pause, rolling past William & Mary Tuesday afternoon to the tune of a 76-40 final score. The Cavaliers (4-1, 0-0 ACC) enjoyed a balanced scoring attack and stifling defense all afternoon against the Tribe (2-3, 0-0 CAA), as they jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

Virginia quickly took command, opening with a 7-0 run before building an 11-2 lead by the first media timeout. The Cavaliers received contributions from four different players in the first four minutes with junior guard Kihei Clark leading the way with two driving layups.

After two games with freshman guard Reece Beekman getting the start, Clark was inserted back into the starting lineup. While it is uncertain if Coach Tony Bennett plans on altering the lineup in the future, today’s more veteran starting lineup of Clark, senior guard Tomas Woldentensae, junior guard Trey Murphy and senior forwards Sam Hauser and Jay Huff seems to be a good bet going forward, especially against No. 1 Gonzaga Saturday.

Virginia continued to dominate the first half, and after William & Mary redshirt freshman forward Ben Wight scored a bucket to cut the lead to 13-6, the Cavaliers went off a 11-0 run, extending the lead to 24-6. Highlighting the run was a seven point burst by Murphy — who knocked down a pair of jumpers and completed a hard drive to the basket.

The first 12 minutes of action saw the Cavaliers continually attack the paint, resulting in feeds leading to high percentage layups and dunks.

Following a timeout, the Tribe completed a quick 6-2 run — including a three-pointer from freshman guard Yuri Covington and a bucket plus a foul shot from senior guard Luke Loewe —  to trim the lead to 26-12. Virginia closed the half strong, scoring ten points in the final three minutes to give the Cavaliers a 36-14 advantage heading into the break.

In the first half, Virginia was led by 12 points from Murphy on five of six shooting — including two three-pointers — as nine different players entered the scoring column during the opening frame. Notably, the Cavaliers found success close to the bucket — shooting nearly 80 percent from inside the arc.

After scoring only 14 points as a team in the first half, William & Mary found their groove early in the second half — scoring 11 points in just over four minutes with Covington chipping in five. 

The Tribe cut the lead to 16, but that would be the closest they would come for the remainder of the game.

The Cavaliers adjusted and put together a 9-0 run over the next three minutes. From there, Virginia cruised, gradually building the lead to its highest margin of 36 with 43 seconds left to play. The Cavaliers took that margin to the buzzer, posting a final scoreline of 76-40.

The Cavaliers were led in scoring by Murphy’s 15 points and redshirt freshman Kadin Shedrick’s 10 points. Hauser chipped in nine points on three of seven shooting from deep, and Huff also finished with nine points.

“[Murphy] looked sharp and was ready to play, and he had the kind of energy and focus that we need from him,” Bennett said. “He’s a multiple position player and can guard different positions.”

Despite several defensive lapses in the second half, Bennett certainly had to be pleased with the overall execution during the final 20 minutes, as Virginia had been outscored in three of four games while giving up at least 35 points to each opponent in the second half. The Cavaliers bucked that trend by outscoring William & Mary by 14 points and allowing only 26 points in the second half.

Virginia’s strong showing against the Tribe is certainly a positive sign heading into a marquee matchup with top-ranked Gonzaga. With 17 days since their last game — an overtime win over Kent State — the Cavaliers did not miss a beat, looking even better than before the program paused all team activities.

“Our guys came out focused and ready and looked fairly sharp,” Bennett said. “I thought we played fairly alert defensively.”

Virginia will travel to Fort Worth, Texas to play the No. 1 Bulldogs Saturday. Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS.

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