Old proves better than new in gritty UVA road win
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- The phrase 'out with the old, in with the new' is common in college basketball during this age, but Virginia showed Tuesday night in front of a hostile Ann Arbor crowd how important the old can be.
"There's no substitute for it, I've said that 100 times, I think that was important," UVA head coach Tony Bennett said after the Cavaliers beat Michigan 70-68, "You just can't lose your way, no matter how it looks, you just keep chipping away and that's what the guys did."
Virginia responded to a a blistering start from the hometown Wolverines by ripping off the "tuxedos" and pulling out a gritty, resume building win on the road, their first true road win of the season. UVA outscored Michigan 36-23 in the second half led by their veteran core of returning starters Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner and Kadin Shedrick along with grad transfer Ben Vander Plas.
"First road game and I know Illinois felt like a road game in Las Vegas and Big Ten fans travel well, I know that from my days in this league," Bennett said, "But it got pretty, pretty intense in here and the experience of Kihei and Reece, Kadin's played a lot of games, Ben is experienced as a player, Jayden, Armaan, that stuff it matters."
The Cavaliers entered the season with one of the most experienced teams in the country, but one also coming off the disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013. Virginia returned their top-six players from last season, while looking like an entirely different team with statement wins already over Baylor, Illinois and now Michigan as they climb to No. 3 in the country.
Virginia has scored 70-plus points in each of their first six games for the first time under Bennett and the first time since 2003 for the program. Early on many of the problems which sank the Cavaliers a year ago look remedied. But with their ACC opener against Florida State next up on Saturday, Bennett is taking a cautious approach.
"It's one game, keep battling," Bennett said, "Now we go back and we start conference play and got to get some guys healthy."