Virginia’s trademark packline defense and turnover-free offense led the way Monday night as the Cavaliers (18-5, 9-3 ACC) obliterated Miami 60-38. The Hurricanes (15-8, 6-6 ACC) came into the game shooting 38 percent on three-pointers as a team but made only two of their 20 attempts from beyond the arc for the night. Virginia, meanwhile, made five out of 11 attempts. The Cavaliers also generated 20 assists on 26 made field goals, while turning the ball over just three times compared to Miami’s 11 giveaways.
Miami won the opening tip but immediately turned the ball over. Virginia failed to capitalize, however, allowing junior forward Norchad Omier to put the Hurricanes on top in the next possession. The teams then combined to miss their next seven shots before senior guard Reece Beekman equalized the score at 2-2 nearly four minutes into the half.
Omier quickly scored again, then corralled a missed three-pointer from the Cavaliers and got the ball up court for an easy Miami layup. Omier then also added a free throw the next possession. Virginia shot just 1-for-9 in the game’s opening minutes, letting Miami take a 7-2 lead after the first five minutes.
Coming out of a TV timeout, Beekman floated around a defender to hit a layup and end Virginia’s small scoring drought. After a pair of missed shots, two reserves — junior guard Dante Harris and graduate student forward Jake Groves — connected for another Cavalier basket. Groves hit another jumper, and Virginia had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
Towards the end of the half, Miami grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds and eventually found junior guard Wooga Poplar for the team’s first three-pointer. The Cavaliers headed to the locker room up 28-17, having shot 14-for-29 after their cold start. Beekman led all scorers with eight first-half points.
Both teams started cold again in the second half, combining to miss their first five shots of the period before sophomore guard Andrew Rohde found Beekman at the rim for two points. After another Poplar basket, Beekman assisted an easy layup for graduate student forward Jordan Minor, and Virginia forced a shot clock violation to hold a 35-19 lead going into a TV timeout.
Virginia continued to pull away throughout the second half. Rohde hit a layup, then sophomore guard Ryan Dunn swatted a shot down onto the floor, and sophomore guard Isaac McKneely found Beekman for a wide open three-pointer. Freshman forward Blake Buchanan then ripped the ball away as Beekman picked it up off the floor. Beekman then threw the ball up for Dunn, and the sophomore took off from the free throw line to slam home a signature alley-oop.
After a Hurricane backcourt violation, McKneely hit a mid range jump shot off a pindown screen to extend the lead to 42-19. Miami clawed back two points on an Omier dunk, but the Cavaliers responded right away with a jump shot from Buchanan. Dunn forced a steal, then Groves sank a corner three-pointer to extend the lead to 26.
Groves traded baskets with the Hurricanes, then Miami hit a pair of free throws to make the score 49-25 midway through the second half. Omier hit a layup through tough contact from Minor, but missed the following free throw.
A few possessions later, freshman center Michael Nwoko was fouled by Buchanan. He missed both of his free throws, though, sending the home crowd into its final frenzy of the night as they were guaranteed free bacon after two consecutive free throw misses.
With four minutes to play and the score at 56-32, the game began to wind down. Nwoko redeemed himself by making two free throws, and a few possessions later Buchanan hit another short jump shot. After a Hurricane free throw with just over a minute to play, Coach Tony Bennett subbed in his two walk-ons — senior forward Tristan How and junior guard Bryce Walker — to close out the game. Each team would hit one more shot, and the Hurricanes would make a layup to set the final score at 60-38.
Beekman led all scores with 16 points, coupled with 7 assists and 4 rebounds. McKneely added 9 points, 4 assists and 6 rebounds of his own, including one he tipped to Beekman while on the ground. Dunn contributed with 8 points on 5 shots and 8 rebounds.
The Cavaliers easily outshot Miami throughout the night, making nearly 50 percent of their field goals while holding Miami under 30 percent. The 38 points Miami scored was their lowest offensive output since 1948.
“It was good basketball,” Bennett said. “I thought we moved hard. We got the ball to the right spots, had a variety of shots, didn't shoot a ton of threes. I thought we got into the lane and made the plays and had some good drives, good pocket passes, and the guys were sharing the ball. Good Virginia basketball on both ends.”
[Bennett] told us we're playing for a bid”, Buchanan said. “We're playing for Chicago, the NCAA Tournament.”
The Cavaliers will continue their assault on the ACC Saturday when they travel to Tallahassee, Fla. for a matchup with Florida State. Increasingly on track to crash the NCAA Tournament with one of the final spots, Virginia will need to continue a season-best winning streak. The game tips off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on The CW Network.