#15 Virginia rallies, survives, Kent State, in OT
Virginia, again, gave up 40 points in the second half. This time, it wasn’t enough.
The 15th-ranked Cavaliers withstood a barrage from Kent State, and a buzzer-beating three that sent the game to OT, in a 71-64 win in front of a handful of friends and family in the John Paul Jones Arena on Friday.
The unlikely hero was junior point guard Kihei Clark, relegated to the bench for the second straight game.
Clark ended up going 38 minutes, and it was his defense down the stretch on Golden Flashes guard Mike Nuga that was crucial.
Nuga had made four of his five shots from the field, three of them threes, as Kent State (1-1) turned around a seven-point halftime deficit to lead by as many as four, on a Nuga layup with 4:14 left that put the Flashes up 56-52.
UVA coach Tony Bennett put Clark on Nuga, and the senior didn’t score in the final 9:14, going 0-of-4 from the floor, missing his last four shots – all from three.
Clark was also the catalyst for the offense down the stretch, with seven points and an assist in the final 8:39, on his way to a 14-point, three-assist night.
Virginia (3-1) seemed to have the game wrapped up in regulation, after a pair of free throws from Jay Huff put the ‘Hoos up 62-59 with 38 seconds left.
Kent State had several chances to tie in the closing seconds. Danny Pippen missed from three with 22 seconds left, but Nuga got the long-ball rebound.
The ball eventually ended up in the hands of Pippen for another miss with eight seconds left, but Virginia couldn’t corral the rebound, and it went out of bounds.
Nuga missed with four seconds left, but Justyn Hamilton picked up the loose-ball rebound, and found Pippen on the right wing for a look at the buzzer, and the splash sent the game to a free five minutes.
The free basketball wasn’t pretty. Sam Hauser broke the tie with a driving layup at the 3:16 mark, and the next bucket didn’t come until Hauser hit a contested three with 42 seconds left.
Kent State shot 1-for-11 from the floor in the extra session, after connecting on 15-of-27 (55.6 percent) and hitting on 7-of-14 from three-point range in the second half.
Hauser had 18 points and seven rebounds, shooting 7-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-7 from three.
Huff had 18 points and 11 rebounds, going 5-of-9 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Clark’s 14 largely came at the line – he was 9-of-12 at the stripe, earning trips with aggressive dribble-drives into the lane.
Nuga had 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting. Pippen finished with 13, and Hamilton added 12.
Next up for Virginia: nemesis Michigan State, on Wednesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Michigan State, you may remember, knocked two very good Virginia teams out of back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, in 2014 and 2015.
The matchup next week would be the first for the programs since that 2015 game.
Michigan State already has wins this season over Notre Dame and Duke.
The eighth-ranked Spartans had a tough one themselves on Friday, rallying from five down with 10 minutes to go to beat Detroit Mercy, 83-76.
Story by Chris Graham