CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The Cavaliers never wavered from their plan of attack against the Panthers. At halftime of its men’s basketball game against Pitt, more than half of Virginia’s shots from the floor had come from three-point range.
And the ‘Hoos just kept shooting, and shooting, and shooting.
Eventually, those long shots started to fall with consistency and in succession, and it helped turn the game in Virginia’s favor. Jay Huff and Sam Hauser each knocked down a pair of three’s amidst a 16-0 run in the second half for the Cavaliers. It gave No. 14 Virginia some separation from the visiting Panthers and powered them to a 73-66 victory in front of a smattering of masked fans inside John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday.
Virginia (13-3; 9-1 ACC) finished the game shooting 12-of-24 from behind the arc, good enough for a 50% clip. Hauser, often matched-up with Pitt’s Justin Champagnie, finished the game with 23 points, six rebounds and two assists. Huff added 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, and point guard Kihei Clark tallied 11 points and eight dimes.
The Panthers (9-6; 5-5 ACC) started the game off hot, jumping out to a quick 7-0 lead. Pitt held a 26-22 cushion near the end of the first half, but Virginia went on an 8-1 run over the final two-and-a-half minutes of the period to take a three-point lead into intermission. It was Tomas Woldetensae’s shooting that sparked that run, as he knocked down back-to-back shots from three-point land.
Pitt tied the game up in the second half, bringing the score to 36-36 after Au’diese Toney effortlessly connected on a fast break lay-up. Right after that, at the 15:57 mark, is where the ‘Hoos game-changing 16-0 run began – kick-started by a pair of good free throws from Hauser. During that stretch, Pitt missed three lay-ups.
The number of three-pointers the Cavaliers attempted was somewhat surprising, considering they only attempted 17 in their last game, a seven-point win over N.C. State. Coming into the game, Tony Bennett’s side had a three-point attempt rate of .420, which was just the 64th highest in the nation and trailed fellow ACC teams like Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Clemson and Wake Forest.
But against Pitt, those shots were open – which was also somewhat of a shocker, since Pitt was allowing opponents to make just 30.2% of their three-pointers this season, which was 48th best in the country and second-best in the ACC.
The Panthers were never able to fully recover from Virginia’s three-point-fueled run. With six seconds to play, Pitt cut the deficit to six points, but never got any closer.
Leading Pitt on the stat sheet was Champagnie, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds, good enough for his ACC-leading ninth double-double of the year. Xavier Johnson had six assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes of play to go along with 10 points. Ithiel Horton added 15 points too.
While Virginia shot masterfully from deep, Pitt was just 4-of-14 from three-point range. The Panthers also missed five free throws and had nine turnovers.
Pitt has now lost six straight to Virginia and is 0-4 inside John Paul Jones Arena. The Panthers haven’t beaten the Cavaliers since Jan. 4, 2017, an overtime victory in the Steel City.
The Panthers have lost four of their last five games. A loss at Louisville on Wednesday would drop their in-conference record to below .500.