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ANDERSON: Five takeaways from Virginia athletics for the week of Jan. 25

It was an especially strong week for the Cavalier squads, particularly on the wrestling and women’s tennis fronts

<p>The wrestling team's 17-16 nail-biter over Pittsburgh was its first win against a ranked opponent since a 23-16 victory over then-No. 16 Arizona State in January 2019.&nbsp;</p>

The wrestling team's 17-16 nail-biter over Pittsburgh was its first win against a ranked opponent since a 23-16 victory over then-No. 16 Arizona State in January 2019. 

The week of Jan. 25 was a full week of action for Virginia athletics, with five different sports suiting up for the Cavaliers. Men’s basketball split their games, winning comfortably against Syracuse but suffering a crushing loss against Virginia Tech. In other sports, women’s tennis won both their games, wrestling won its dual meet and men’s golf finished third in the Timuquana Collegiate in Jacksonville, Fla. Let’s take a deeper look at a few matches in this version of Five Takeaways.

This is the Sam Hauser we were all looking forward to

The senior guard transfer from Marquette was often hailed as the three-point sharpshooter that would solve all of Virginia men’s basketball’s problems. Last year’s team was one of Coach Tony Bennett’s worst offensively — the squad hit just 30.4 percent of their three-point shots. Yet fans felt that help was on the way. Hauser was an all-conference player in his time at Marquette and was as pure of a shooter as any in the sport. Nonetheless, through the first few games, there was a slight feeling of disappointment with Hauser — a sentiment that I believe was completely unfair. He had been very good all season, especially considering it was still his first real year playing in Bennett’s system. On Jan. 25 against Syracuse, however, Hauser showed the skill that earned him second place in the preseason ACC Player of the Year standings. He hit seven three-pointers, and he seemed as though he thought every shot would go in. It would be a bit much to say that Hauser is the key to Virginia’s season, but the forward certainly elevates the Cavaliers’ ceiling.

Men’s basketball does not have the usual defensive strength to fall back on

Men’s basketball fell 65-51 against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Saturday evening in an abysmal showing offensively in the second half. Overall, Virginia shot just 37 percent from the field, and the Hokies were aided by an astonishing 19-0 run in the second period. For all intents and purposes, the offensive showing seems like an outlier, but it does present a worst-case scenario for the Cavaliers — when their offense fails them, the usual strength on defense is not as prevalent. In the 2019-20 season, Virginia won 12 games while scoring fewer than 60 points. This year, however, the squad will not be as fortunate in low-scoring outings. The defense, by all standards, is still excellent. But it is a slight step down from last year’s. The team simply does not have absolute difference-makers on defense, especially when senior forward Jay Huff is sitting with foul trouble. Luckily for the Cavaliers, the numerous impressive offensive performances this season have overshadowed the relative defensive “struggles” — the team is still allowing an average of under 60 points per game. It is just that low-scoring games are less likely to turn to Virginia’s favor.

The consistency of the women’s tennis team will make them a tough out

Virginia women’s tennis won decisively Thursday against Virginia Commonwealth, only losing one set total in the singles competition and going 2-1 in doubles. What was most impressive about the Cavaliers’ play that afternoon was the consistency across the board of players one through six. The Rams were a bit outmatched, claiming only one player in the ITA Top 125 as opposed to Virginia’s five. But the way that every athlete that played methodically picked their opponent apart was impressive to watch. Sophomore Natasha Subhash in particular had a fantastic game, defeating her opponent 6-1, 6-0 to bounce back from a loss in her match against Ohio State last week. That there could be a note like that of Subhash’s written about every athlete that picked up a racquet on Tuesday, however, gives Virginia fans plenty of optimism about women’s tennis this season.

Women’s tennis is able to claim the victories against strong opponents

The Cavaliers followed up their win on Thursday with another victory Saturday against South Carolina. The final score was 4-1, but the results are really what is more impressive. The Gamecocks came into the meeting with three singles players ranked in the ITA Top 125 and two doubles pairs ranked in the Top 30. Of the five total matchups against South Carolina’s best, Virginia went 4-0, with the one remaining game being unfinished. Although Virginia came in as the better team overall, it is still quite impressive that the Cavaliers can stand up to their toughest opponents. Freshman Emma Navarro was particularly admirable, as she came back from dropping the first set to take complete control of the match, winning 1-6, 6-0, 6-1 against the Gamecocks’ second-highest-rated player. The triumph on Saturday capped off what can only be described as a nearly perfect bounce-back week for Virginia women’s tennis. 

Major decisions were the key in Virginia wrestling’s victory

There was an upset Friday evening in Virginia sports, as the Cavalier wrestling team upended 12th-ranked Pittsburgh in a narrow 17-16. Virginia won the meet on a dominant 10-0 victory by junior Quinn Miller in the last event of the night, the heavyweight category. In fact, the matches that resulted in major decisions proved to be a summation of how the night went, as the Cavaliers led the Panthers 2-1 in the category. Virginia’s other major decision, by sophomore Justin McCoy, provided a major momentum shift right before intermission. At the time, the Cavaliers were down 9-3, and the meet was at a tipping point. One more win by Pittsburgh and it could have been a lost night for Virginia. But McCoy came up huge for Virginia, delivering both a major decision and vital hope to the Cavaliers, cutting Pittsburgh’s lead to 9-7. In the matches that mattered, Virginia was simply more dominant than the Panthers, and they were rewarded with the victory.