UVA’s defense sets the tone in 62-33 walloping of Texas Southern

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo by Jon Golden

Virginia didn’t have its sharpest game offensively on Thursday night against Texas Southern, but the defense picked up a lot of the slack in a 62-33 rout at John Paul Jones Arena.

The Cavaliers (4-0) looked a bit stagnant from an offensive standpoint for a good chunk of the first half, but certainly made up for it on the defensive end, causing the Tigers (0-3) to commit 20 turnovers on the evening, which translated into 21 UVA points.

Virginia stole the ball 13 times and blocked 10 TSU shots, with Ryan Dunn and Reece Beekman leading the charge — the duo combined for 14 of the team’s 23 “stocks” (steals-plus-blocks), a program single-game record since both of those statistics have been kept. The Wahoos limited the Tigers to just 26-percent shooting (12 for 46) on the night, including a 19-percent clip (3 for 16) from downtown.

Dunn was the only player on the floor who reached double-figures scoring with a career-high 15 points to go with a team-best 5 rebounds, 2 assists and the aforementioned defensive numbers. Beekman added 8 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds while committing a season-high 3 turnovers.

“I thought our energy was excellent and I thought Ryan (Dunn) really energized or invigorated us, and how hard he was playing,” said UVA coach Tony Bennett. “And when Dante (Harris) and Reece (Beekman) are locked in, they’re hard to go against on the ball. So, the energy and the flying around was good.”

The Hoos were playing without starting guard Isaac McKneely, who was injured on Tuesday night at the end of the first half against North Carolina A&T. Harris, who started 50 games across his two seasons at Georgetown, got the start in McKneely’s stead and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, finishing with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a pair of turnovers across 28 minutes.

“I didn’t play my game in the first couple of minutes,” admitted Harris. “I was forcing some stuff, but that comes with time and just continuing to watch the tape to see what I can do better. But we got the win, so that’s all that matters.” 

TSU knotted the score at 7-7 in the early stages before the Cavaliers tallied 10-straight points and built a comfortable advantage. Dunn scored 7 in a row by himself, hitting a pair of free throws before picking off a pass and dunking hard — up and over a helpless Tiger defender — and then sinking a triple to make it 20-10 with 7:48.

“It’s like an energy play,” Dunn said of his SportsCenter top-play-worthy stuff. “Like last year, just coming in and bringing those plays into the stadium, they get the crowd hype, get everything going. After that play, we got a lot of stops. I try to just bring that energy and that passion every single day.” 

But those weren’t the only oohs and ahhs the Hoos had up their sleeves. After a Beekman layup gave Virginia a 26-14 edge at the half, freshman big man Blake Buchanan jammed one home and was fouled just before the under-16 media timeout in the second half, pushing the lead to 38-23.

After a couple of back-to-back emphatic swats — one by Buchanan, one by Dunn that resembled a volleyball spike — Leon Bond got into the act with another highlight-reel flush. The redshirt-freshman almost had another wide-open dunk off of a steal, but misfired on his layup attempt.

Jacob Groves followed up a Beekman miss with a three-point play, part of a 14-0 spurt that gave the Hoos a 52-25 lead with just over seven minutes on the clock.

The Tigers finally got one to drop on the next trip down after going over eight minutes without a point and missing nine shot attempts in a row. Bennett was able to rest his starters for the remainder of the contest, as walk-on Bryce Walker split a pair of free throws with 1:49 remaining for his first college point.

The Hoos shot 44 percent (21 for 48) from the field, 31 percent (5 of 16) from beyond the arc and 71 percent (15 for 21) from the free-throw stripe, committing a season-high 11 turnovers. After getting outrebounded in the first half, 21-12 (including 9-2 on the offensive glass), the Cavaliers flipped the script in the second, evening the final tally at 34-apiece.

Bennett was not pleased with giving the Tigers multiple extra opportunities, but was happy with the way his team locked down and allowed just 3 second-chance points on 13 offensive rebounds.

“We’re not the biggest and strongest, and so we have to use good positioning and then scrapping to go get it,” said the coach. “So yeah, we made some good individual plays, whether it was blocks or steals after our defense broke down after an offensive rebound or someone got right into the paint, but that won’t always work, that I know.”

Bond finished with 8 points and 3 takeaways, Groves chipped in with 7 points, Andrew Rohde had 6 and 3 steals, while Buchanan added 5 points, 4 boards, 3 blocks and a steal. Jahmar Young Jr. and PJ Henry led the Tigers with 7 points each.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA recorded 10 or more steals (13) and blocks (10) in the same game for the first time in school history
  • UVA allowed its fewest points (33) since yielding 32 to St. Francis Brooklyn on Nov. 15, 2016
  • UVA held its second straight opponent to fewer than 20 first-half points
  • UVA is 28-0 when allowing fewer than 40 points under Tony Bennett
  • UVA is 110-2 when limiting foes to fewer than 50 points in the Bennett era
  • UVA is 169-50 in non-conference action under Tony Bennett
  • The Cavaliers have started 4-0 for the second straight season (7-0 in 2022-23)
  • UVA held Texas Southern to 26.3 percent shooting (12 of 46) and forced a season-high 20 turnovers
  • UVA went on a 15-2 run to gain a 49-25 lead at 7:37 second half
  • UVA held Texas Southern to 5 of 24 (20.8 percent) shooting in the first half
  • UVA went on a 10-0 run to gain a 17-7 lead

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 1-0 all-time against Texas Southern

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Ryan Dunn (15)
  • Dunn had a career-high 15 points, three steals and career-high four blocked shots
  • Dunn added career bests in free throws made (8) and free throws attempted (9)
  • Dunn reached double figures for the fourth time
  • Reece Beekman added eight points, four steals and a career-high three blocked shots
  • Blake Buchanan had a season-high three blocked shots
  • Bryce Walker scored his first collegiate point
  • Isaac McKneely missed the game due to an ankle injury


UVA heads to sunny Florida next week for two games in the Fort Myers Classic. The Hoos will face Wisconsin on Monday at 6 p.m., then will take on either SMU or West Virginia on Wednesday.