CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Tuesday night’s Big Ten-ACC Challenge duel against Virginia had the signs of a letdown game for the No. 15 Michigan basketball team.

The Wolverines (5-2) were coming off a successful trip to Hawaii at the Maui Invitational and were playing in their first true road contest of the season. They had been playing beyond expectations and were bound to fall back to Earth.

And unfortunately for Michigan, the signs held true.

The Wolverines had trouble stringing together effective offensive possessions, and they had no answer for a second-half Cavalier run and a stingy defense, in a 70-58 loss.

“They’re one of the better defensive teams we’ll play all year,” said senior guard Zack Novak. “They did a good job. At the end of the day though, we just got some shots we had to make. In the first half we missed a couple bunnies and in the second half … we pushed things a little bit but couldn’t get a bucket.”

The early going of the game marked a departure from what the Wolverines were used to last week.

At the Maui Invitational, Michigan put up a lot of points to keep up with the pace of Memphis, Duke and UCLA. But things slowed back down when the Wolverines touched down in the mainland. Long possessions, few fast breaks and staunch defense kept the score low, as neither team found much rhythm on offense early.

The Wolverines led 19-14 with less than three minutes left in the first half when Cavalier guard Joe Harris injected some life into the game. He knocked down a 3-pointer, forced a steal and knocked down two free throws to send Virginia (6-1) on an 10-4 run. The Cavaliers went into the locker room leading, 24-23.

“That was really big,” Novak said of the run. “It looks like we’re going to go in with a bit of a lead, we’re on the line, but you’ve just got to work through those things. You’re playing on the road, teams are going to make a run.”

Added Michigan coach John Beilein: “We got ourselves in foul trouble a little bit and that certainly hurt our first-half performance. I felt we missed some easy ones in the first half. We had foul trouble in the first half (and) probably could have got out on them a little bit, but I don’t know if it helps us win the game the way they played the second half.”

After the break, the scoring picked up. The Cavaliers and the Wolverines traded leads, but neither team could separate itself until the middle of the half. That’s when Virginia pounced with a 15-0 run, and Michigan couldn’t respond. The crowd at John Paul Jones Arena grew louder and the Wolverines had trouble finding any semblance of an offensive rhythm.

Beilein called two timeouts during the Cavalier streak, but neither helped.

“We wanted to make sure they calmed down and got a good shot,” Beilein said. “At that time, you don’t give them a big plan. There’s not a big change other than ‘Alright, settle down. You’re alright. And we’ve got to guard at one end and execute at the other.’ You give them two plays.”

The Wolverines didn’t find success with either one.

Michigan missed 10-straight shots until sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. finally hit a jump shot to end the suffering. At that point, Virginia was up 53-43.

“As long as (Tony Bennett) is coaching this team, (the defense) is always going to be good,” Beilein said. “They do a tremendous job. … They’re tough to get easy baskets and when you get them, you can’t miss them, and we had several of those in the game.”

Harris and forward Mike Scott had the hot hands for the Cavaliers, scoring 18 points apiece as Virginia sent Michigan home with few positives. The Cavalier scoring was limited to just five players, but it was enough.

Virginia evened up its all-time series with Michigan at 2-2.

Hardaway Jr. spent much of the first half on the bench after picking up his second foul minutes into the game. He didn’t score his first points until he knocked down a 3-pointer midway through the second half and finished with a season-low five points.

Novak, freshman point guard Trey Burke and sophomore forward Evan Smotrycz took the burden of the scoring in the game, but it was far too little to give Michigan a chance to win.

“We just have to learn from our mistakes and come back Saturday (against Iowa State) with a different mentality,” Hardaway Jr. said.

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