Virginia cruises to 80-51 victory over visiting Aggies

By Scott Ratcliffe

Photo by Jon Golden

While Virginia moved to 3-0 on the season with an easy 80-51 win over visiting North Carolina A&T on Tuesday at John Paul Jones Arena, it came at a cost.

The Cavaliers played the entire second half without starting guard Isaac McKneely, who went down with an ankle injury with 51 seconds left in the first half and was seen wearing a boot after the game.

UVA was ahead by 28 points, and maintained a large advantage throughout the rest of the contest, but the severity of McKneely’s injury is unknown, according to Tony Bennett.

“Hopefully Isaac’s alright,” said the coach afterwards. “He got X-rays, and again it wasn’t broken, so we’ll see how serious it is.”

The Aggies (0-3) actually outscored the Wahoos in the second half, 32-31, but Virginia held a 49-19 halftime lead and put things on cruise control down the stretch, with A&T never able to truly make a game of it.

Redshirt freshman forward Leon Bond III had another big night off the bench, putting up a team-high 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting in just 19 minutes. Sophomore Ryan Dunn was equally efficient from the field, connecting on 4 of his 5 attempts for 13 points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds, a game-high 3 blocks and a pair of steals.

The Cavaliers wasted no time building a cushion early on, using an 18-2 run to stretch their lead to 28-8 just before the under-eight-minute media timeout. During the flurry, the Hoos got 3-pointers from four different players — McKneely, Jake Groves, Reece Beekman and Taine Murray — as the team got contributions from up and down the roster.

Graduate-transfer forward Jordan Minor, who saw his most action of the season (12 minutes, 14 seconds), got into the scoring column with a crowd-pleasing dunk. Bond went to work in the closing minutes, scoring on three buckets in the final 3:22 to give the Hoos a comfortable advantage at the break.

UVA shot 64 percent (18 for 28) in the opening half, including 75 percent (6 of 8) from downtown, and the Aggies were on the opposite end of the spectrum, connecting on just 21 percent from the field (6 for 28) and 7 percent (1 for 15) from long range.

Virginia busted out some highlight-reel plays after halftime, with Blake Buchanan scoring on a soft lay-in on an alley-oop pass just before Dunn electrified the JPJ crowd with a powerful slam off a turnover. Dunn had another eye-popping flush on another perfect long-range feed from Beekman, and Bond followed home a tough miss with a one-handed dunk, pushing the lead to 61-33 with 13:15 remaining.

The Hoos, who led by as many as 34 at one point in the second half, were able to get all 12 available players onto the court, including walk-ons Tristan How and Bryce Walker, who was making his Cavalier debut.

Virginia, which shot better from the free-throw line (12 for 16; 75 percent), dominated in the paint, outscoring the Aggies by a 40-10 margin (15-2 in second-chance points) while also winning the rebounding battle convincingly, 42-24. There was another stat, however, that caught the attention of Groves — who finished with 11 points and a career-high-tying 9 boards — in the postgame press conference.

“Something that’s really impressed me was, today we were 22 assists to eight turnovers. That’s something that I’m not used to,” the Oklahoma transfer admitted. “And I know [against] Florida, we were just just as good as that, if not better. Like I said, that’s something I’m not used to. And so this team really, really has a knack for finding each other, taking care of the ball, and then it just leaves it up to guys like me to make shots.”

On the night, the Cavaliers assisted on 22 of their 31 made shots (31 for 57; 54 percent). The Aggies were able to eliminate the long ball in the second half, as UVA misfired on all 5 of its attempts from beyond the arc, a point of emphasis for the visitors at the break.

“It’s not very pleasant to have to play against that defense,” A&T head coach Monte Ross said.

Beekman had an off-night offensively (2 for 9; 5 points), but dished out a game-high 7 assists, hauled in 4 rebounds and added a steal in 21 minutes. Murray had a season-high 7 points, while Buchanan, Minor and Andrew Rohde each chipped in with 6 apiece.

While McKneely, who finished with 8 points and knocked down both of his 3-point attempts, could be sidelined for a few games, the rest of the team will have to pick up the slack from the perimeter moving forward, but the Hoos still connected on 46 percent overall on Tuesday.

Landon Glasper was the only A&T player in double figures with a game-high 18 points (5 triples), as the Aggies shot just 32 percent (17 for 53) as a team on the night and 26 percent (8 for 31) from long distance.

Team Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • UVA is 168-50 in non-conference action under Tony Bennett.
  • UVA is 160-11 when scoring 70 or more points under Bennett (3-0 in 2023-24)
  • The Cavaliers have started 3-0 for the second straight season (7-0 in 2022-23)
  • Virginia shot a season-high 54.4 percent from the field
  • UVA shot 18 of 26 (64.3 percent) en route to a 49-19 lead at the half
  • The 30-point halftime lead was UVA’s largest since leading St. Francis (Pa.) 45-13 at the half on Dec. 1, 2020
  • UVA went on a 18-2 run to gain an 26-8 lead
  • UVA forced one shot clock violation

Series Notes

  • Virginia is 2-0 all-time against North Carolina A&T in a series that dates to 1994.

Player Notes

  • Double Figure Scorers: Leon Bond III (16), Ryan Dunn (13), Jake Groves (11)
  • Bond had a season-high 16 points
  • Bond reached double figures for the second time
  • Dunn reached double figures for the third time, tying a career best with 13 points
  • Dunn added a career-high 11 rebounds for his first career double-double
  • Dunn added two steals and three blocked shots
  • Groves reached double figures for the second time at UVA
  • Groves matched a career-best with nine rebounds
  • Bryce Walker made his collegiate debut
  • Dante Harris had a career-best two blocked shots
  • Blake Buchanan made his first career start


The Cavaliers will be right back at it on Thursday night at JPJ, as Texas Southern comes to town for a 7-p.m. tipoff (ACC Network).