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Virginia men's basketball team cruises past Saint Francis in unusual home opener

Virginia men's basketball team cruises past Saint Francis in unusual home opener

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The Virginia men’s basketball team ran onto the court for its home opener, greeted by eerie silence.

The team’s introductory hype video was celebrated by a few claps from the extremely limited crowd in attendance and advertising banners covered the typical student section.

Cardboard cutouts of select fans were behind each baseline and fake crowd noise played through the speaker system as the Cavaliers attacked the basket and locked down on defense. A first-half shot-clock violation, which is typically viewed as a phenomenal achievement by Virginia fans, instead led to a media timeout with no fanfare.

As strange as the atmosphere felt for Virginia’s home opener, the team’s performance surely brought a smile to fans’ faces as they followed along from home.

The Cavaliers bounced back from a disappointing loss to San Francisco with a dominant victory over Saint Francis. UVa (2-1) took down the Red Flash 76-51 thanks to tight defense and efficient offense, especially from inside the 3-point line.

Virginia made 25 of its 36 shots from 2-point range, making up for a 5-for-22 effort on shots beyond the 3-point line.

Jay Huff scored a game-high 13 points, including 11 in the first half, on an efficient 6-of-7 shooting. He didn’t miss from inside the 3-point arc.

An improved offensive showing came as the Cavaliers tweaked their starting lineup. Out of the starting lineup was star point guard Kihei Clark, who came off the bench. Freshman point guard Reece Beekman earned the start alongside Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, Justin McKoy and Huff.

The group played well, and Tony Bennett was quick to turn to his bench throughout the half. Clark, Casey Morsell, Kody Stattmann, Trey Murphy III and Kadin Shedrick all saw plenty of time together in the opening minutes. It appeared as if the Cavaliers were rolling out two separate five-man units at times.

Both units were filled with starting caliber players, and they helped the Cavaliers open up a 21-4 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. After a pair of 3-pointers from St. Francis cut the lead to 21-10, Virginia ended the half on a 24-3 run to take a 45-13 lead into halftime.

Little changed in the second half, as the Cavaliers kept running their offense effectively and St. Francis struggled to score with any real consistency. The Red Flash shot just 36% for the game despite an improved second half and a few made baskets with the game out of reach.

Shedrick finished with a solid performance for the Cavaliers in the post. The redshirt freshman ended the contest with 12 points and eight rebounds.

After a shocking upset loss to San Francisco, Virginia toyed with its starting lineup and executed well in a blowout victory over St. Francis. Virginia looked the part of the preseason ACC favorite Tuesday night in an impressive bounce-back performance.

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