Virginia’s 46-26 win over Maine: Intriguing? You bet

uva basketballVirginia improved to 7-0 (1-0 ACC) with an apparent ho-hum 46-26 win over the Maine here in John Paul Jones Arena in a Wednesday matinee matchup.

The intrigue? The Cavaliers were down two starters: Kody Stattman, who is still recovering from an illness that has now sidelined him for four straight contests, and versatile, do-everything-player Braxton Key.

Key, who sustained a wrist injury in the waning minutes of Sunday’s game with Arizona State, was on the sidelines in his warmup suit and his arm in a sling and soft cast.

Key, averaging 10.3 points and a team high 8.3 rebounds, was on the Virginia bench during the first half, but did not return for the second half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett opened the postgame press conference with a quick and somewhat limited comment on Key’s injury.

“First, regarding Braxton, he had surgery on his wrist. He went in for a drive late and landed on his wrist,” Bennett said.

When asked if key had broken his wrist, the UVA coach declined to confirm.

“I’m just supposed to say he had surgery, the surgery was a success, and there is no timetable for his return.” Bennett added.

With or without Key, the offense continued to a huge problem for the Cavaliers. Virginia again was a dismal 39% from the floor, including connecting on just 6-of-18 three-point attempts.

Forced to go to a depleted bench early and often, Virginia turned to seldom-used reserves Chase Coleman and Jayden Nixon; each played about 10 minutes .

Mamadi Diakite led the Cavaliers with 15 points and Jay Huff added 11. Huff opened the UVA scoring with the team’s first seven points.  Short-handed or not, Virginia was just too much for an equally challenged offensive team, limiting the Black Bears to just eight made baskets for the game.

Not only is Key’s versatility invaluable, it’s the intensity in which he brings to the floor, something obviously that was lacking here Wednesday and noted by Bennett.

“It’s obviously a tough blow because he brings some much heart and effort on the glass and his energy defensively, just his experience,” said Bennett.

Last year Virginia freshman Kihei Clark suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist (non-shooting hand) and went through a surgical procedure.

Like Key’s injury no timetable was given regarding Clark’s return to action.

The point guard used a week off in the schedule to make a surprising return to the court in Virginia’s next game.

Can UVA fans hope for or expect a similar recovery for Key?  A week can be a long time.

Story by Scott German

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