Ty Jerome said it was great to be back on the basketball court.
Jerome scored 20 points and De'Andre Hunter had 13 and 10 rebounds as No. 5 Virginia beat Towson 73-42 on Tuesday night in its first game since they made history that followed them all offseason as the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Cavaliers didn't just lose, but got dominated in a 74-54 loss to UMBC.
"Given how last year ended, I think we were even more excited to come out and get a win under our belts and just play basketball with each other again," he said, adding that he's been asked to address similar questions a lot. "We were real anxious. We've been playing against each other for a while now, the whole summer and then a month of practices. We were excited to play against somebody else."
Jerome made six 3-pointers for the Cavaliers (1-0), who outscored the Tigers 45-23 after halftime. He scored 11 in the first half and took a seat early having made 6 of 9 3-point shots and adding four assists. He was joined with an early night off by Hunter, who played just 26 minutes in his return from a wrist injury that caused him to miss the ACC championship and the infamous loss in the tournament.
Coach Tony Bennett emptied his bench by the midpoint of the second half.
"That was a great joy for me to see that," he said of giving Kody Stattmann, Jayden Nixon and Grant Kersey their first college minutes.
Tobias Howard made three 3-pointers and led Towson (0-1) with 10 points and Brian Fobbs had nine. The Tigers had long spells without a field goal in each half and finished shooting 31.7 percent (13-41). They also missed 15 of 27 free throws (46.7 percent) and turned the ball over 14 times while forcing just five by the Cavaliers.
"We appreciate Ty Jerome throwing a bunch of dagger threes in there to really give them some separation," coach Pat Skeery said. "He just has that kind of innate feel about when to seize the game. That's kind of what he did to cause some separation and wear us down."
Freshman Kihel Clark was impressive in his debut for Virginia. The 5-foot-9 guard made, arguably, the defensive play of the game when he intercepted the ball while guarding an inbounds pass and laid it in for a 49-33 Cavaliers lead. Later, he threw an alley-oop pass to Jay Huff, putting Virginia ahead 65-37 with 3:29 to play. Alabama transfer Braxton Key had seven points and nine rebounds for Virginia.
Bennett was wrapping up his postgame media session when he glanced up at a TV in the room.
It was showing a game between UMBC and Marquette.
"I'd like to thank Bach for putting the UMBC game on for me in my postgame press conference," he said, laughing, of Virginia men's basketball sports information director, Erich Bacher. "That's really great of our sports information director. That's really wonderful."
Towson: The Tigers have a tall task, especially early in the season with only three players back from last season's team and the leading scorer among the three, Jordan McNeil (4.7 ppg), sidelined with a wrist injury suffered two weeks ago. Coach Pat Skeery has nine new players to incorporate into his style of play.
Virginia: The Cavaliers were very slow starting on offense, but the defense that has been their trademark under Tony Bennett was there from the outset. Towson went nearly nine minutes between field goals in the first half and more than 10 minutes without a field goal on the second half and in Kyle Guy, Jerome, Hunter and Key, they have four players who figure to be very reliable scorers.
The Tigers go to the other end of the spectrum, returning home to face Division III Wesley on Sunday.
The Cavaliers stay home and face George Washington of the Atlantic 10 on Sunday.
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