By Jeff White (

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It was only fitting that, on a night when the University of Virginia men’s basketball team avenged a one-sided ACC loss, Taine Murray had a hand in the play that sealed the victory at John Paul Jones Arena.

With about 15 seconds left in overtime Wednesday night, NC State’s DJ Horne missed a contested 3-point attempt from the right corner, and UVA’s Jordan Minor corralled the rebound. Minor passed to teammate Reece Beekman, who flipped the ball ahead to Murray, who spotted Ryan Dunn alone near the Wahoos’ basket. The vicious dunk that followed stretched Virginia’s lead to six and raised the volume inside JPJ to ear-splitting volumes.

“He kind of finished the job,” Murray said after Virginia’s 59-53 victory. “It was awesome.”

Dunn, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds—his fourth double-double of the season—and blocked a career-best six shots. More unexpected were the contributions of Murray. A 6-foot-5 junior from New Zealand, Murray came into the week averaging 2.6 points and 11.9 minutes per game. But he’s continued to work hard in practice, even when he hasn’t had a prominent role in games, and when head coach Tony Bennett turned to him Wednesday night, Murray was ready.

“Taine came in and gave us a great lift,” Bennett said. “I was so proud of him and happy for him.”

In 18-plus minutes off the bench, Murray scored 11 points, including six in overtime, and he played solid defense throughout. He was 2 for 2 from 3-point range and 3 for 4 overall. Murray also made 3 for 4 free throws, all in the final 42 seconds of the extra period. His teammates were a combined 4 for 9 from the line.

“We needed that lift,” Bennett said.

“It’s amazing,” Dunn said of seeing Murray shine. “Taine is probably one of the hardest workers on his team. There’s days where we have an off day and he’ll come in and work out at 7 in the morning. He’ll stay at night to come shoot … I see [the progress], and you guys are able to see it too now. His work came in big today. We needed him today and he stepped up and I’m really proud of him.”

Ryan Dunn

This was the second game in less than three weeks between these teams. In the first, the Wolfpack walloped the Hoos 76-60 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C.

Much has changed for UVA (14-5 overall, 5-3 ACC) since that Jan. 6 defeat. Minor, a 6-foot-8, 242-pound graduate student, has moved into the starting lineup, and he provides a physical presence around the basket that the Hoos lacked early in the season. Dante Harris, a 6-foot guard who missed the game in Raleigh with an ankle injury, played nearly 20 minutes Wednesday night, and Murray has rewarded the coaching staff’s faith in him.

The victory was the third straight for Virginia, which is 11-0 at JPJ this season. The Cavaliers have the nation’s longest home winning streak: 21 games.

“I think we’re taking steps in the right direction,” Dunn said. “The beginning of ACC [play] we got pummeled every time we went on to the road. We were able to fight back in Atlanta”—UVA defeated Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion last weekend—“and then today we kind of came together. But it’s still taking steps. We’ve got a whole lot of season left. And we’re not done. We have some unfinished business to take care of.”

In Raleigh, the Cavaliers periodically tried to double-team NC State’s mammoth center, 6-foot-9, 275-pound DJ Burns Jr., but the strategy was ineffective. Burns is an excellent passer, and he continually found teammates for open shots.

In the rematch, “I feel like we tightened up more defensively,” Dunn said. When Minor was defending Burns, he usually did so without help, and the Hoos “did a few other things that we thought would keep us a little more connected,” Bennett said.

Murray’s first trey, with 42 seconds left in the first half, pushed the Cavaliers’ lead to 13, and they went into break up 27-15. They remained in control early in the second half, and a fadeway jumper by Dunn made it 35-21 at the 14:53 mark. But the Wolfpack (13-6, 5-3) battled back with an 11-2 run that included a catch-and-shoot trey by guard Casey Morsell (team-high 13 points), who began his college career at UVA.

UVA guard Isaac McKneely had little room in which to operate Wednesday night, but he broke free for a 3-pointer that made it 40-32 with 7:44 left in the second half. Again, though, NC State answered, this time with a 9-0 run that gave the Pack its first lead since 6-5.

“We got wobbly and almost fell down,” Bennett said, smiling. But the Cavaliers bounced back up and led 47-43 with a minute left in the second half.

It didn’t last. State scored the final four points of regulation, setting up Virginia’s first overtime game of the season. The Hoos never trailed in the extra period. Dunn scored on a stickback and then made 1 of 2 free throws, after which Murray’s second 3-pointer made it 53-47 and whipped the home fans into a frenzy.

“The crowd was terrific,” Bennett said. “That’s as loud as it’s been this year, and it was needed for us. So that’s what home court is about.”

Jordan Minor

The Cavaliers turned the ball over 15 times, which didn’t please Bennett, but he saw much that he liked Wednesday night. Virginia outrebounded State 54-32 and locked in defensively. The Wolfpack, which came in averaging 77.3 points per game, shot 34.9 percent from the floor overall and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman center Blake Buchanan pulled down eight rebounds, and Minor (10 points, nine rebounds) nearly recorded a double-double. Beekman (11 points, six assists, four rebounds, three steals) was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2022-23, and he’ll be a candidate for that award again this season. But his competition will include Dunn, who frustrated Pack players throughout the game Wednesday night.

“He was all over,” Bennett said. “Ryan’s activity was at an elite level.”

So were Dunn’s “enthusiasm and passion,” Bennett noted. One of the more demonstrative players on UVA’s roster, Dunn exhorted fans to crank up the volume after his overtime dunk, and they were happy to oblige. The Cavaliers, who appeared adrift after losing by 19 points at Wake Forest on Jan. 13, are now tied for fourth in the ACC.

“I think they understand who they are,” NC State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “When you add Minor to the bunch, he’s a physical presence, and the right people are taking the right shots … They’re good. They’re always going to be tough here at home. I think what changed for them is obviously going to Georgia Tech, getting their first road win. Obviously, it gives them confidence … This particular Virginia team has struggled on the road, but I think winning on the road also helps them win at home.”

Asked about Murray, Keatts applauded No. 10’s effort. “I don’t like the fact that he made all those free throws, though,” Keatts added with a smile.

For Murray, a student in UVA’s prestigious McIntire School of Commerce, it was a night to savor.

“Obviously, I’m just super grateful to be in the position that I was tonight,” he said.

UP NEXT: For the fourth Saturday in a row, Virginia will play away from JPJ, this time at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky. At noon, in a game to air on The CW, UVA meets Louisville (6-13, 1-7).

This is a rematch of their Jan. 3 game at JPJ, where the Cavaliers defeated the Cardinals 77-53. Virginia has won the past eight games in the series.

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