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No. 21 men’s basketball snaps losing streak on senior night, beating Miami 62-51

The Cavaliers used a late first-half surge to take control of the game

<p>Virginia senior forward Sam Hauser celebrates with assistant coach Brad Soderberg after coming off the court late in the game.</p>

Virginia senior forward Sam Hauser celebrates with assistant coach Brad Soderberg after coming off the court late in the game.

No. 21 Virginia men’s basketball churned past Miami 62-51 on senior night. The Cavaliers (16-6, 12-4 ACC) snapped a three-game skid to clinch a top-four seed and double bye in the ACC tournament next week against the Hurricanes (7-16, 3-15 ACC).

Virginia honored four seniors on the night, with forwards Sam Hauser, Jay Huff and Austin Katstra and guard Tomas Woldetensae all being introduced by their families via video in lieu of the standard senior night celebration before COVID-19. 

“I sat down with the team and shared how much Jay meant to me with his growth and his contributions to this program, the same for Austin, and Tomas and Sam in their ways,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “They’re such fine young men.”

For the first time in nearly two months, Bennett decided to roll out a new starting lineup. After missing the last two games due to COVID-19 protocols, Woldetensae replaced a struggling freshman guard Reece Beekman to hopefully give more life to Virginia’s offense.

The two sides went back and forth early, as Woldetensae and junior guard Trey Murphy hit three-pointers for the Cavaliers while Miami was led by four early points from senior guard Elijah Olaniyi. 

After a bucket from senior guard Kameron McGusty put the Hurricanes up 15-12, sophomore forward Justin McKoy gave Virginia needed offensive energy. McKoy scored six consecutive points to give the Cavaliers a three-point advantage heading into the second media timeout with 10:34 left in the first half.

The teams continued to trade buckets with neither team gaining more than four points of separation until under two minutes remained in the half. After an 8-3 run from Miami — giving the Hurricanes a one-point edge — Virginia ripped off a 14-2 run to close the half and take a 41-30 lead.

Highlighting the run was back-to-back three-pointers from Hauser and a near half-court make from McKoy as the halftime buzzer sounded. Leading the Cavaliers were Hauser, Murphy and McKoy, who combined for 28 points in the opening frame.

Virginia and Miami each shot 48 percent from the floor, but the difference was the Cavaliers’ five three-pointers and eight free throws.

Virginia started the second half cold, scoring only two points in the first 7:30 and missing eight of its first nine shots. Miami clawed its way back to a six-point deficit with 11:36 remaining and trailed 48-40 heading into the half’s second media timeout.

After making five of their nine three-point attempts in the first half, the Cavaliers shot nine from behind the arc in only the first 10 minutes of the second frame, making only one of those attempts.

With 7:53 left in the game, the two teams had combined for a mere 19 second-half points with the Hurricanes outscoring Virginia 10-9. The ugly play continued, and despite hanging around, Miami never drew closer than six points.

A three-pointer from Hauser with 1:33 left, giving the Cavaliers an 11-point lead, shut the door on any hopes of a comeback for the Hurricanes. Virginia took care of business in the final minute — with Katstra coming in late to celebrate his senior night — to win 62-51.

The Cavaliers only scored 21 points in the second half, but it was more than enough, as they locked up on the defensive end to hold Miami to only 20 points.

Hauser turned in a solid senior-night outing, posting 18 points and six rebounds. Huff struggled offensively, as he made only two of 10 shot attempts, but he added seven rebounds. Murphy rounded out the double-digit scorers on the night, chipping in 12 points.

Significantly, Virginia received 20 points from its bench with McKoy leading the way with eight points. This comes after getting only 13 combined bench points in the Cavaliers last two games — both losses.

“We needed it,” Bennett said. “I thought it was important that those guys did that. We’ve been playing five guys such heavy minutes, and tonight to be able to go to our bench when that group wasn’t as sharp as they needed to be was very important.”

With the win, Virginia remains second in the conference standings with only one regular-season game to go prior to the ACC tournament. Florida State holds the head-to-head tie-breaker and a one-game lead in the loss column, so it’s unlikely that the Cavaliers will overtake the Seminoles for the top seed, but a share of the regular-season crown is still at stake.

Virginia will look to close out the regular season with a win at Louisville, who sits just behind the Cavaliers in the ACC standings. Tip-off Saturday is set for 4 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN.

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