The Virginia Cavaliers defeated the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 65-53 on Wednesday night to capture their NCAA best 22nd straight home win. The Hoos last home loss came in December 2022 against the Houston Cougars. Since that game, Virginia has looked unstoppable in front of their home crowd at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, taking down many notable opponents in that time.
Head Coach Tony Bennett has a historically great record in his home arena. In 14 years at the helm of the Cavaliers, he has lost a total of 38 games at JPJ, taking home court advantage to another level. He has established a basketball program in Charlottesville that has a fanbase envied across the country due to their passion and unwavering support of their team.
The Virginia Cavaliers Takes Revenge Against Notre Dame
Back in late December, Notre Dame handed Virginia their most embarrassing loss of the season, a 76-54 destruction in South Bend, Indiana, which was also the largest loss the Cavaliers have suffered against a conference opponent since 2017. In the rematch, Virginia had the home court luxury and did not disappoint, as they started hot and never cooled off. Transfer Jake Groves led the onslaught, as he hit 6 shots from beyond the arc, a career best.
Overall, the Cavaliers had three main offensive contributors as Groves scored 18, senior point guard Reece Beekman had 21, and sophomore shooting guard Isaac McKneely chipped in 11. Defensively, Virginia was up to their standard as they collected eight steals and six blocks. When the defense is working, Bennett’s squad is nearly unstoppable due to how suffocating it can be.
Tony Bennett’s Lineup Changes Have Paid Off
The 2024 Virginia Cavaliers only returned four rotation players from 2023, meaning there were many new faces to Charlottesville. When the season began, it was an unknown how all these pieces were going to fit together especially for a team lacking the experience that is generally custom for a Tony Bennett led squad. One of the new pieces was transfer Jordan Minor who arrived after a solid career at Merrimack.
After a shaky start to his career at Virginia, Minor has become a valuable presence in the starting lineup. Coach Bennett needs to be commended on how the center has been utilized the last few weeks from being an afterthought to now being depended upon for energy, rebounding, and defense. The current team success has been made possible in part by Minor’s large presence in the paint, something UVA did not have for the first 10-15 games of the season.
Another key contributor of late has been guard Taine Murray. The junior has certainly had to wait his turn, as he played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore. Now, he is being counted on by Coach Bennett to not just add a scoring spark, but also because of his defensive versatility, which is of the utmost significance when playing for the Cavaliers.
How Far Can Virginia Go in March?
The Virginia Cavaliers have experienced the highest of highs during the Bennett era, but they are also no stranger to disappointment. They won the 2019 NCAA Tournament one year after losing to #16 UMBC. However, with Tony Bennett as the coach, the ceiling is endless.
Standing at 16-5 with a number of notable wins under their belt, including beating a ranked Texas A&M squad and Florida at a neutral site, Virginia is likely to again make the NCAA Tournament in the spring. The word on the street was always that Bennett’s teams were not built for March, but then he won it all, which put that argument to bed. So don’t sleep on Virginia.