CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Austin Nichols is one of several new players that figures prominently in the rotation for No. 8 Virginia, and while he arrived as a transfer from Memphis with a reputation as a gifted offensive player, he’s adapted quickly to Tony Bennett’s defensive philosophy.
“I think we can be a pretty good team,” Nichols said after leading Virginia with 11 points in a 72-32 rout of St. Francis Brooklyn on Tuesday night. “We’ve just to continue focusing on defense.”
The Cavaliers (2-0) looked in midseason form at the other end of the floor, holding the Terriers of the Northeast Conference scoreless for a stretch of more than 10 minutes in the first half. Virginia scored 20 consecutive points in that stretch to open a 35-11 lead.
The Cavaliers don’t have a go-to scoring option so far, and even if one surfaces, Bennett said their focus will always be the same.
“I think this team understands that we’re going to have to be so good defensively,” he said. “That’s going to be our ticket.”
The Terriers (0-2) ended the drought on two free throws by Yunus Hopkinson with 7.8 seconds left in the half.
“These games do one of two things for you. They either make you stronger or break you,” Terriers coach Glenn Braica said.
Glenn Sanabria led St. Francis with 10 points and Gunnar Olafsson had seven.
Nichols, who missed Virginia’s two preseason scrimmages and season-opener at UNC Greensboro while serving a suspension for violating a team rule, scored on an array and shots around the basket. Jarred Reuter added nine points and London Perrantes, Marial Shayok and Mamadi Diakite each had eight for Virginia. All 11 scholarship players for the Cavaliers scored and grabbed at least one rebound.
The Terriers finished 11 for 48 from the field, 22.9 percent.
St. Francis: The Terriers attempted 16 3-pointers in the first half and made just one, which is not the recipe for a team from the Northeast Conference to challenge a ranked or Power Five-level school. Having already lost at North Carolina State, they continue an early season gauntlet at Providence next Monday.
Virginia: The early-season indoctrination of youth into coach Tony Bennett’s lineup continued as freshmen Kyle Guy (21 minutes) and Ty Jerome (10) each got significant playing time and Diakite, a redshirt freshman, played 14.
THE DOWN LOW
Nichols has plenty of company up front in 6-11 Jack Salt, 6-9 Diakite and 6-7 Reuter, and all made contributions.
Jack started and had six points and two rebounds, Reuter and Diakite each grabbed four rebounds and Diakite had a block.
“Me and Manadi are more like finesse players,” Nichols said, “and the Bruise Brothers, Jarred and Jack, they’re the bangers inside.”
Virginia walk-on Justice Bartley was one of three walk-ons who entered the game for Virginia with about 2 minutes to play, and Bennett was thrilled to see the sophomore score his first collegiate basket on a layup with 30 seconds remaining.
HE SAID IT
“I think it’s $60,000, or $80,000.” – St. Francis Brooklyn coach Glenn Braica when asked what his team gets from facing Virginia.
St. Francis travels north to play at Providence next Monday night.
Virginia continues a three-game home-stand with a visit from Yale on Sunday.