After a shaky start in their win over UNC Greensboro, the Hoos had all but locked up a win a mere ten minutes into their contest with visiting Austin Peay. The team forced five turnovers in the first five minutes and coupled the stifling defense with impressive shooting on the other side of the floor to take a commanding early lead that they would never relinquish. Their eventual 93 points scored were the most ever in the nine year Tony Bennett era at UVA.
The game was paced by senior captain, Devon Hall, who scored a career high 19 points on 6-9 shooting with 8 of those points coming in the first half. He also added three boards, and five rebounds. Second year, Kyle Guy continued his hot start to the season, scoring 14 points, going 1-2 from behind the arc, dispelling any concerns about a lingering back injury.
After the starting unit established a comfortable cushion, Head Coach Tony Bennett began to dip into his bench. One game removed from utilizing an eight-man rotation, this game saw ten different players before the break, with every single one scoring at least one point, and eventually a complete emptying of the bench.
The opening half saw first years, Jay Huff and Marco Anthony’s first career minutes as Cavaliers, and man did they make an impression. Jay Huff entered the game at the 13:50 to a massive ovation and almost immediately splashed in a triple for his first career bucket. He wouldn’t let up, shooting a perfect 6-6 from the floor in the period to end the half with 13 points. He showcased everything Virginia fans have wanted to see; scoring in the low-post, splashing in midrange and three-point range, and swallowing rebounds. He would finish the game shooting 7-8, with two three pointers, four rebounds, two assists and five blocks. Marco Anthony also impressed, making his only field goal attempt and serving up two assists in each half.
De’Andre Hunter also scored his first career bucket in the first half on a baseline drive and dunk. He would hit a jumper the next possession and end the period with six points. He would add seven more in the second to finish with 13.
The Hoos entered the break up 51-22 behind 70.7% shooting, while outrebounding the Governors by 12.
The second half was more of the same to the misfortune of Austin Peay. The Hoos continued their strong shooting and lock-down defense to coast to a victory. The large cushion allowed for the second unit to accumulate a lot of minutes and experience, that will undoubtedly pay dividends in closer games.
The half was highlighted by strong performances from Nigel Johnson, who finished with 10 points and two steals, as well as Mamadi Diakite, who caused the arena to erupt with back-to-back, massive dunks.
UVa Can Play Offense Too!!
Virginia Basketball under Bennett has been, and always will be, about defense. But tonight we showed that we actually can score the ball too! Five players finished with double digit scoring and four scored 13 or more. Such a scoring output is very uncommon from this unit and should not be expected to become the norm (This was Austin Peay..), however it is certainly nice to be reminded of our potency, especially following the tough shooting night on Friday. Not surprisingly when Bennett was asked about the offensive explosion he replied, “Honestly, I don’t care.” Expect a much lower score against the swarming defense of VCU on Friday.
Jay Huff is Just as Good as Advertised
The buzz started when Huff walked to scorer’s table to check in, and erupted into a roar when he stepped onto the floor for the first time. After a year of watching mesmerizing dunks in warm-ups and dreaming of a big man with a shooting touch, Huff’s debut was better than anybody could have imagined. This was arguably a very weak opponent, but it cannot be understated his confidence to step in and score immediately. And score he did, in a wide variety of ways; Three-pointers, jumpers, put-back dunks, it was all on display. He shot 7-8 from the floor, and his only miss came on a prayer of a jumper as the shot clock expired. Fans should be very excited about his play for the next several seasons.
Devon Hall is Sneaky Good
Devon Hall set a career-high in points with 19 in this game, but in the quietest of ways. He is not the flashy shooter that Kyle Guy is, or the towering presence that Huff is, but he is the epitome of efficient. His only misses came from behind the arc, shots that he can hit, but made up for it shooting 6-6 on two-pointers and going 6-6 from the charity stripe. He drives the lane very well and has terrific finishing ability, but his best attribute is his ability to know when it’s his time to score. He doesn’t take bad shots and he makes the good looks he gets. Despite his low-profile on the court, it’s not unreasonable to see him as the leader scorer throughout the entirety of the season.
The Hoos travel to Richmond, Virginia to play the VCU Rams at 4:00pm on Friday. This will be their first real test as a team and should be a defensive battle. The Rams play a full-court pressure style of defense for the entire 40mins which will expose the endurance of Virginia’s players.