Virginia, back from quarantine, hits the reset button in big win over W&M

uva basketball

The UVA starting five huddles before the opening tip Tuesday against William & Mary. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

College basketball during quarantine is as boring as you’d think it would be.

A lot of Zoom, for instance.

No offense to Zoom, its shareholders, but we hate you, can’t wait ‘til we never have to live life vicariously through you again.

Ahem.

So, Zoom.

Conditioning. Lots of conditioning.

One player at a time allowed into the gym to shoot jumpers.

Having to rebound your own misses and everything.

This was what the Virginia hoops program did for 10 days.

“They’re probably going to say, See coach, practice is overrated, we can rest for 10 days and go in those stretches,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said after his team’s 76-40 win over William & Mary on Tuesday.

No ring rust for the champs, which was a surprise, considering that they hadn’t looked all that good before going on their COVID-19 break a couple weeks ago.

Virginia, preseason #4, ACC favorite, had limped out to a 3-1 start that included a loss to an average San Francisco team, and a home OT win over an improving Kent State.

Basically, the Cavaliers had put up two good halves total in its first four games.

You wouldn’t want to wish quarantine on anybody, but maybe it wasn’t a bad thing – maybe this team needed a reset.

“I think that quarantine really, there is a little bit of hunger in us, and we’re also, just, like, so eager to play,” said junior guard Trey Murphy III, who had a team-high 15 points in 30 minutes in his first start of the season.

“We came back on Saturday, like, it was really clicking, like, it was crazy that we were out for 10 days. In that first practice back, it was one of our better practices,” Murphy said. “I think we really just missed each other a lot, and we’re all just happy to play with each other again. We were really excited to play again. And that’s what this team is built on, just playing with each other, and playing (with) a lot of chemistry.”

There was no doubt in this one really from the outset. It was 11-2 at the first media timeout, 26-6 by the under-8, 36-14 at halftime.

There was an uncomfortable stretch to open the second half. William & Mary scored 11 points in the opening 5:04, bringing to mind an issue from the first four games – in which UVA’s opponents had averaged 19 points in the first half, and 38.3 in the second half, with San Francisco and Kent State each putting up 40.

Whatever needed to be fixed, got fixed – W&M scored 15 points in the final 14:56, finishing with 40, a season-low, through five games, for a Virginia opponent.

Again, you have to wonder if the time off was good in that respect.

With nothing else to do in quarantine, the players’ focus was on conditioning – really the only thing you can work on when you’re isolated.

“We got a good amount of conditioning in while we were in quarantine, so I was able to stay in good shape. Actually, we got back from for the first practice and somehow I felt like I was in better shape than I was before the quarantine, so that was good,” said redshirt freshman forward Kadin Shedrick, who had 10 points and six boards in 13 minutes off the bench.

Don’t get too excited. No knock on William & Mary, but this is a rebuilding year for second-year coach Dane Fischer, whose team is coming off a 21-11 campaign in 2019-2020, but after losing future NBA big man Nathan Knight, among others, was picked last in the past its prime CAA coming into 2020-2021.

If you’re Virginia, preseason ACC favorite, the talk around the program about repeating as national champ, you’re supposed to beat the bejeezus out of the William & Marys.

The credit you give them after this one is, against the backdrop of 10 days in quarantine, they then came out and did what they were supposed to do.

Which, in 2020, is all you can ask.

Story by Chris Graham 


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