Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on 11/10/2019
CHARLOTTESVILLE, V.A. (WVIR) - Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key each had a double-double, and the No. 11 UVa men’s basketball team beat James Madison 65-34 in its home opener on Sunday night at John Paul Jones Arena.
The Cavaliers held the Dukes to 12-of-53 shooting from the field (22.6%), and they forced 19 turnovers. Virginia also held Syracuse to 34 points in its season opening win in the Carrier Dome.
“What they do is really, really, really good, and it’s really challenging,” says JMU head coach Louis Rowe. “It’s 40 minutes of it. They turned it up at every level. The Pack Line got tighter, forcing us to take a lot of outside shots. We weren’t getting to the rim.”
UVa jumped out to a 12-3 lead against JMU, but the Dukes scored 13 of the next 16 points to go in front.
That was their only lead of the game.
Virginia was up 31-23 at halftime, and they opened the 2nd half on a 20-3 run to put the game away.
Diakite had 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Key added 14 points and 10 boards.
The points and rebounds were both career highs for Diakite, as he recorded the first double-double of his career.
The contest ended with a local flavor, as Jayden Nixon (STAB), Austin Katstra (Albemarle), and Grant Kersey (Albemarle) all checked into the game, as did Matt Palumbo.
The former St. Anne's-Belfield star is a team manager for the Cavaliers, and he was wearing the over-sized #1 jersey, just like Kersey did last year.
“He didn’t know we were even going to do that,” says head coach Tony Bennett. “We put his name in the scorebook. You have to do that before, or you’ll get a technical, so we put Grant’s name in, and Matt’s. Matt had no idea, and I said to Ronnie, because we’re short-manned, let’s have them run in and get their jersey’s on. (Palumbo’s) eyes were as big as they could get. He ran in there, and to be able to reward him, I talk about the true servants in our program, those who serve others well. That was awesome. I could see it in his eyes, his family, same thing with Grant. I just love that. That’ll be one of my favorite memories of my time here, to be honest.”
UVa is 11-0 in home openers under Bennett, and the program has won 23 in a row, overall.
Virginia (2-0, 1-0 ACC) will be back in action next Saturday, as the Cavaliers host Columbia at noon.