No. 14 Virginia men’s basketball took down Pittsburgh 73-66 Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers (13-3, 9-1 ACC) used a strong second-half run to pull away and earn a tough conference win against the Panthers (9-6, 5-5 ACC).
Pittsburgh came out with a strong start, jumping out to a 7-0 lead as Virginia missed its first four shots. The Panthers maintained a three-point advantage by the second media timeout with 11:55 left in the first half.
Eight of the Cavaliers’ first nine shots came from behind the three-point arc, only making two of those attempts. In fact, senior forward Sam Hauser’s mid-range jumper over seven minutes into the game was the first two-point field goal for Virginia.
Coming out of the timeout, the Cavaliers began to find an offensive rhythm, hitting four of their next five shots. Senior forward Jay Huff had a particularly impressive series, as he drilled a three-pointer before pump-faking the same shot on the next possession only to drive to the bucket and convert a layup with a foul.
Virginia took a 18-15 lead on a Hauser layup with 8:02 left in the half, but Pittsburgh quickly regained the lead, once again shutting the Cavaliers down and holding them scoreless for nearly four minutes.
After the Panthers captured a 26-22 lead, Virginia closed the half on a 8-1 run to take a 30-27 advantage into the break. The late surge was led by senior guard Tomas Woldetensae, who nailed three-pointers on consecutive possessions. Woldetensae’s shot-making was a welcome sight for Cavalier fans, as he missed all five shots in 21 minutes of action in his last four games combined.
In the first half, Virginia made six three-pointers, and Hauser led the team with nine points. Pittsburgh received eight points each from sophomore forwards Justin Champagnie and Abdoul Karim Coulibaly and sophomore guard Ithiel Horton.
The Panthers opened the second half well, tying the game at 36 apiece with 16:21 left on a layup from junior guard/forward Au’Diese Toney. However, the Cavaliers quickly opened up their biggest lead of the game following a pair of free throws from Hauser and back-to-back three-pointers from Huff in the span of just over 90 seconds.
Following a timeout called by Pittsburgh Coach Jeff Capel, Virginia took control of the game with another quick eight points, highlighted by two three-pointers by Hauser. In the span of just four minutes, the Cavaliers took a tied game to a 52-36 advantage.
The Panthers closed the deficit with a 7-0 run, but Woldetensae answered with a quick six points, and Pittsburgh did not draw within single digits until just over three minute remained in the game. Even when the Panthers found scoring, hot shooting by Virginia kept the lead large. In fact, the Cavaliers went nearly 10 minutes without missing a single shot, as they made eight consecutive shots.
However, a late cold spell offensively for Virginia allowed Pittsburgh to claw within seven points with 1:24 remaining. The Cavaliers did not make a shot for over five minutes, but, with strong late free-throw shooting, Virginia closed out the game with a final scoreline of 73-66.
For the game, the Cavaliers were led by Hauser’s 23 points — a season-high for any Cavalier — on eight-of-nine shooting and three-of-four shooting from deep. Furthermore, Hauser did a solid job defending Champagnie, holding the Pittsburgh star to 18 points on 18 shots.
“[Hauser] was the difference in this game with his offense and his defense,” Coach Tony Bennett said.
Huff added 13 points and eight rebounds, Clark chipped in 11 points and eight assists and Woldetensae added 14 points on six shots for Virginia. As a team the Cavaliers shot 53.2 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point arc.
On the other side, Virginia was certainly not at the top of its game, as the Panthers scored 39 points in the second half and 42 points in the paint — compared to only 18 for the Cavaliers.
“We didn't play very well defensively if I want to be real,” Bennett said. “That was a poor performance, good action by Pitt, but they were the aggressor. We looked unready at times, and not sharp and again our offense carried us but that’s disappointing.”
Virginia will seek to earn their 10th ACC win and a season sweep of Georgia Tech Wednesday in Atlanta. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on the ACC Regional Sports Network.