Home Scott German: Statement win for Virginia, which throttled Miami from the get-go
Basketball, Sports

Scott German: Statement win for Virginia, which throttled Miami from the get-go

Scott German
uva tony bennett
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Virginia 60, Miami 38. Statement win. That’s really where this column could both begin and finish.

The Cavaliers dominated, despite trailing 7-2 in the opening few minutes.

When a reporter asked Virginia coach Tony Bennett in the postgame presser about the slow start, Bennett quickly responded, “not on defense, it wasn’t.”

The ‘Hoos quickly found their rhythm on offense, and the rout was on.

Virginia dominated from start to finish, on both ends of the floor, to push its winning streak to seven straight, and extend the nation’s longest homecourt winning streak to 23.

The suffocating Virginia defense completely unraveled the entire Miami squad, including head coach Jim Larranaga, whose postgame press briefing lasted all of 27 seconds.

Miami entered the contest averaging just over 80 points per game. Saturday, in a come-from-behind win in Coral Gables against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes scored 53 points – in the second half.

Miami made it to the Final Four last season, the result of strong guard play.

Monday night, the Cavaliers defense completely undressed the Hurricane backcourt.

Nijel Pack, a veteran guard, was held to just two made free throws.

The Virginia defensive effort wasn’t simply the Reece BeekmanRyan Dunn show against Miami.

It was a defensive highlight reel for UVA.

Isaac McKneely clogged the passing lanes throughout the contest, and Dante Harris recorded a block and a steal.

UVA has held 48 straight ACC opponents to fewer than 70 points at John Paul Jones Arena.

Let that simmer for a few moments.

Virginia, now 9-3 in the ACC, is in sole possession of second place in the conference.

Just over a month ago, the Cavaliers were 2-3 in league play.

Again, let that simmer for a few moments.

“I think it was a real complete performance,” Bennett said.

That might go down as the understatement of the year in college basketball.

Tonight, Virginia started slowly, missing nine of its first 10 shots, falling behind early.

No panic in the sellout crowd, however; they saw what the Cavaliers were already doing on defense.

It was like a boa constrictor – slowly and agonizingly, they were already serving notice to Miami, it’s not if, but when.

After the slow offensive start, Virginia made five of the next eight shots, including three-pointers from Mckneely and Jake Groves on back-to-back possessions, to go up 14-7.

UVA would go on a 12-0 spurt, blanking Miami on 0-of-8 shooting over a five-minute stretch.

Taine Murray’s three-pointer from the deep corner gave Virginia a 25-11 lead with 3:31 left in the opening half.

It was obvious; Miami wanted no part of this.

Virginia led 29-17 at the break after torturing Miami into 28 percent shooting from the floor, just 2-of–10 behind the line.

A second-half letdown?

Nope.

Beekman’s three-pointer and a Ryan Dunn dunk on an alley-oop from Beekman put UVA in front 40-19, forcing Larranaga to call a timeout.

A timeout that was about as effective as throwing deck chairs off the Titanic.

The second-half lead continued to build to as much as 26 points within three minutes of the Hurricanes’ TO.

Miami got no closer than 22 the rest of the way.

Everything worked for Virginia against Miami

During the winning streak, Virginia has been inconsistent on offense, but has been effective at limiting turnovers.

Monday against the Hurricanes, the Cavaliers committed just three turnovers.

On defense, Virginia just throttled Miami all night.

And they made it count, scoring 15 points on Hurricanes’ turnovers.

Monday, against Miami, it was deja vu-like for Wahoos

If Monday’s clobbering of the Hurricanes looked familiar, it’s because it was.

Virginia’s defense, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in Division 1, allowing 57.7 points per game, put the stranglehold on Miami’s potent offense from the time they stepped on the floor.

The Hurricanes made 28.6 percent of their shots from the floor, including a hideous 2-of-20 from beyond the arc.

When UVA is playing at an elite defensive level, and make no mistake, they are, they can make quality opponents look ridiculously bad.

Miami’s previous low-scoring game this season was 62 points.

The Hurricanes would have needed at least another 20 minutes to reach that amount Monday evening.

And considering Jim Larranaga’s 27-second postgame presser, they wanted out of Charlottesville as quickly as possible.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.