It was somewhat baffling that Virginia's gameplan wasn't to exploit the smaller Bulldogs right out of the blocks, but the fact that the Cavaliers went into attack mode to start the second half was comforting to most Wahoos fans who were Googling the nearest bridge to jump from, fearing the humiliation of becoming the second No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. The Sooners opened the tournament with a 23-point win over Ole Miss on Friday. Virginia, a year removed from the most shocking and humiliating NCAA Tournament loss of all time, for any team, was never scared. Sophomore guard Devontae Shuler can light it up from long range, making nearly 40 percent of his threes, and senior forward Bruce Stevens can give an inside spark with 8.5 points and 1.3 offensive rebounds per game.
Diakite was a surprise starter and ended up leading the Cavaliers. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is on a 14-3 against-the-spread run against non-Big 12 teams.
Offensively, Virginia received 23 points from sophomore De'Andre Hunter and 17 with nine rebounds from Mamadi Diakite. UVA became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed a year ago when UMBC pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history. But Gardner-Webb came ready to shoot the long ball and maximize its possessions, and the Cavaliers had their backs pinned to the wall early with a hostile crowd.
There was only one scare in the second-round matchup and it was rather mild: Virginia scored the first seven points of the game, but Oklahoma (20-14) answered with a 13-2 run to take its only lead.
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"He's our go-to guy when we need a bucket", Jerome said of Hunter, who made 9 of 16 shots. The Bulldogs have the -ranked defense in the country according to KenPom, and with no consistent players over 6-foot-6, Virginia should have little trouble scoring inside. "I understand that", Bennett said.
"That will always be part of our story".
"It's unforgettable. I could carry this on for the rest of my life, and no one can take it from me", senior Brandon Miller said. "So, I tried to be aggressive from the tip in the second half". "But it's just now, this is a new year".
The Cavaliers entered the tournament as a No. 1 seed for the second straight season. Until the Cavaliers beat their first round opponent, there was just no way around it.
Press conference footage provided by the NCAA. The Cavaliers outscored the Dogs, 41-20 in the second half and six of G-Webb's points came after the final time out when Bennett inserted his bench.
At the other end, Gardner-Webb was hot. Back in 2017, the 5th seeded Cavaliers lost 65-39 to No. 4 Florida.