No. 9 Virginia desperate to find deep stroke vs. Columbia

NCAA Basketball
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No. 9 Virginia outscored its first two opponents by a combined 45 points despite shooting 16 percent from 3-point distance.

Expect the host Cavaliers (2-0) to keep launching freely from long range on Saturday afternoon when the Columbia Lions (1-2) visit Charlottesville, Va.

“You can’t be afraid, when you have an open shot, to shoot,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “And if it’s a quality shot, shoot it in rhythm and take it. Don’t aim it. Shoot it.”

The defending national champions missed 21 of 25 3-pointers in a season-opening win at Syracuse, and then missed 21 of 25 again in their home opener Sunday against James Madison. The Cavaliers won both contests easily thanks to their defense, which held both teams to just 34 points.

Two of the Virginia players tasked with trying to replace the perimeter production of 2019 first-round NBA draft picks Kyle Guy (120 3-pointers in 2018-19) and Ty Jerome (79) are sophomore Kody Stattmann and freshman Casey Morsell.

Through two games, Stattmann is 1 for 9 from beyond the arc and Morsell is 1 for 11.

“It’s really their first year just getting on the floor and really playing big minutes,” said sophomore point guard Kihei Clark, who is 3 for 13 from deep.

“I just tell them to keep shooting. They’re both elite shooters, and the team is going to need them to shoot.”

To upset Virginia, Columbia is going to need another shooting effort like Wednesday night’s 75-63 home win against Binghamton. The Lions shot 44.0 percent (11 of 25) from 3-point territory, with five different players making at least one trey.

Freshman guard Jack Forrest sank all four of his 3-point shots and scored 14 off the bench. Junior forward Randy Brumant hit 2 of 3 triples and finished with 16 points and 10 boards. Senior guard Jake Killingsworth made three 3-pointers and finished with 10 points.

“This was a good bounce-back game for us,” said Columbia coach Jim Engles, whose team was picked sixth in the preseason Ivy League media poll. “We lost two tough games on the road (both by 65-63 scores) and it was nice to come home and hit some shots.”

Senior guard Mike Smith leads the Lions with 21.3 points per game, with four others scoring between 8.0 and 9.0 per game.

“We’re still learning a lot, (but) the one thing we’re learning is that we’re a resilient group,” Engles said. “We don’t dwell on things and we come back and keep playing. We’re displaying some toughness and I think that’s a positive for us moving forward.”

Transfer Tomas Woldetensae, a junior college All-American guard, started the opener for UVA but did not play Sunday with his left foot in a protective boot. For Columbia, sophomore guard Maka Ellis didn’t play in the last two games for undisclosed reasons and junior guard Gabe Stefanini (foot) is out indefinitely.

Saturday’s contest is part of the 2019 Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament’s slate of campus round games.

Virginia won both previous meetings against Columbia, in 1966 and 1987. The Cavaliers are 20-8 all-time against the Ivy League and 74-6 at home in nonconference games under Bennett.

–Field Level Media

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