CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Kyle Guy had the answer ready almost before the question was finished.
How hard is it, he was asked, to maintain intensity in the second half of a game when your team leads by 30 points?
“It’s very easy,” he said with a steely look on his face, “considering how last season ended.”
It was only last March when Virginia, the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16. That 74-54 loss to UMBC wasn’t even as close as the score suggests, and the sting clearly still lingers.
“That was a rough way to end the season and it was a long offseason for a lot of us thinking about that game and how we ended the tournament with such a great season,” Jack Salt said. “It keeps us motivated at practice, in games. It just keeps us ready at all times.”
Guy and De’Andre Hunter scored 15 points each as the No. 4 Cavaliers dispatched Morgan State 83-45 on Monday night.
Nine different Cavaliers scored during a 24-6 first-half burst that turned a 23-14 lead into a 47-20 runaway. Virginia (8-0) then kept the defensive clamps on the Bears, who didn’t make their third field goal of the second half until 1:57 remained.
“I think our defense was really good tonight, actually,” Guy said.
Malik Miller and Victor Curry led the Bears (2-5) with seven points apiece. Morgan State was 5 for 28 (19.7 percent) from the field in the second half and missed all eight of its 3-point tries. For the game, the Bears shot 14 for 54 (25.9 percent).
“Clearly,” Bears coach Todd Bozeman replied when it was suggested the game was more a payday for his program than anything.
“I wouldn’t have chose to come down here and play this game,” he said before allowing there would be benefits in terms of highlights he can emphasize.
“This is how a high-level program competes. This is how they defend. This is the discipline that they have,” he added. “It’s things like that that you get out of it.”
Virginia was sloppy early with six turnovers in the first 12 minutes, but shot well from the start. The Cavaliers made 15 of 23 attempts (65.2 percent) in the opening half, including 7 of 11 (63.6) from 3-point range. Braxton Key began the long run in the first half with a pair of free throws, and by the time Cody Stattmann capped it with a 3-pointer, nine of the Cavaliers who scored in the half had done so during the run.
With the expected mismatch, Virginia coach Tony Bennett used his bench liberally, inserting 10 players in the first half.
The biggest cheer after halftime came in the closing minutes when team manager Grant Kersey, who gets to dress for home games, fed fellow walk-on Austin Katstra for a fast-break dunk. Moments later, Katstra fed Kersey for a layup and a three-point play.
Salt, the Cavaliers’ center, had a breakaway and tried a behind-the-back dribble, drawing roars from the crowd. He was fouled on the play and made both free throws, but also learned a valuable lesson. “I was on the bench very fast,” he said.
Morgan State: The Bears’ paying-the-bills schedule has done them no favors, as they lost 100-77 to No. 21 Villanova and 91-63 at DePaul before coming to John Paul Jones Arena. The tough slate, though, could pay off later in the season when Morgan State gets into the thick of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference play.
Virginia: The Cavaliers started the night ranked third nationally in scoring defense (52.4 ppg) and had limited three teams — Coppin State, Towson and Wisconsin — to fewer than 50 points. Virginia also was among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.2), scoring margin (21.1) and 3-point field goal percentage (40.8).
Morgan State: The Bears have a quick turnaround, returning home to face Binghamton on Wednesday night.
Virginia: The Cavaliers play state rival VCU at home on Sunday.