Winning ugly can be beautiful: Just ask any Virginia basketball fan
The Virginia Cavaliers held an opponent to less than 55 points for the fourth consecutive game by blitzing Lehigh 61-43 here tonight in John Paul Jones Arena.
For the first 20 minutes of the contest, it couldn’t get much uglier for the Cavaliers, as they limped into halftime with a mere 25-21 lead over the Mountain Hawks.
Or perhaps that first half wasn’t ugly for Virginia, maybe it was merely a measuring stick for what was to come to Lehigh. A quick glance at the first half stat sheet had the Mountain Hawks connecting on just 8-of-24 from the floor, including 1-of-7 from behind the arc.
Virginia didn’t exactly shoot that well, either, but you knew sooner or later the shots were going to start falling for the Cavaliers, and the defensive intensity was still going to be there.
UVA scored the first six points of the second half to take its first double-digit lead at 31-21 at the 16:37 mark. The lead simply expanded from that point on, ending any hopes of a second member of the Patriot league from claiming a win in JPJ this season. The Naval Academy stunned the Cavaliers in the season opener.
The 6-0 run by UVA started with the Virginia defense forcing a Lehigh turnover, ending with a Kihei Clark easy layup on the opposite end of the floor. Kadin Shedrick followed with a jump hook shot, and Arman Franklin canned a jumper, ending the mini-Cavalanche.
Defense often sparks offense, and that is exactly what Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches. And it did tonight. From the start of the 6-0 run, Virginia made 13 of its first 17 shots form the floor in the second half.
Clark was one of two Virginia double-digit scorers, along with Reece Beekman, who harassed the Mountain Hawks the entire game.
Knowing Lehigh was prone to the turnover bug, Virginia contested the Mountain Hawks relentlessly, forcing 19 turnovers and scoring 15 points from those miscues.
For the game Lehigh, was a dismal 18-of-51 from the floor and 3-of-16 from the three-point line.
The 22 second-half points by Lehigh was the fifth straight half that the Cavaliers have held an opponent to 25 or less points. Sound familiar? It should. It was another lockdown defensive effort by a Tony Bennett coached UVA squad that resulted in his 300th career win at Virginia.
Thank goodness Virginia fans are used to ugly basketball. Because it usually ends beautifully.
Story by Scott German