NC State visited the John Paul Jones arena Sunday evening looking for their third major upset of this College Basketball season. Having dispatched the then second ranked, Arizona back in November, and just a week ago taking care of, then also number two, Duke, the Wolfpack (12-6, 2-3 ACC) set their eyes on the Virginia Cavaliers (16-1, 5-0 ACC).
However, it was evident early on that the Wahoos would not let themselves fall victim to the upset-happy squad. They controlled the game from wire to wire and stomped NC State by a final score of 68-51.
It was second year guard, Ty Jerome, who got the Cavaliers going. He scored eight early points including one sequence in which he forced a turnover and immediately leaked out into the backcourt for an uncontested layup, breaking out to a quick double digit lead.
That lead would never be seriously threatened for the remainder of the contest. The Wolfpack was held to 41% shooting, including only two made three-point baskets, one of which came in garbage time. In classic Virginia fashion, they were forced into bad shots and were held off the free throw line, only attempting five shots from the stripe.
On the other side of the floor, the script was flipped. The Hoos shot 56% from the field, including 57% from deep. They got to the charity stripe with authority, and converted once there, making 14-16 of their attempts.
The Hoos were paced all game by a stellar performance from redshirt senior Devon Hall. He posted a career high 25 points on 7-9 shooting, with 4-5 from downtown, and a perfect 7-7 at the foul line.
The other senior member of the squad, Isaiah Wilkins, also turned in a solid game. He finished with ten points, six boards, two steals, and a block. He also provided the game’s most exciting moment as he hit a corner three while being fouled to create a rare, four-point play. Normally known as a defensive stalwart, the crowd erupted at his impressive touch from beyond the arc.
Second year guard, Kyle Guy, started the game slowly, scoring only six points in the first period, but erupted in the second half, finishing with 17 points on 7-11 shooting, three coming from deep.
This Team is Deep and Dangerous:
One of the beauties of this team is their unpredictability on a night to night basis in terms of their scoring. Each and every player on the roster is a threat to have a massive night on the offensive end of the floor (okay, maybe not Jack Salt). Guys like Devon Hall and Kyle Guy have outstanding games regularly, but seemingly just as regularly have only okay nights. This game was a perfect example of the balance this team can achieve. Hall did end up having a career night, and Guy played efficiently as well, but every single player that touched the floor made a positive impact. De’Andre Hunter played 18 minutes and scored only two points, but he defended exceedingly well, forcing two steals, and rebounded well, grabbing five boards. Nigel Johnson also didn’t light up the scoreboard but dropped five assists without turning the ball over once. Even Jack Salt, while he struggled both scoring and rebounding, set a couple absolutely bone-crushing screens, one dropping a guard to the floor, leaving Devon Hall wide open in the corner to splash down a three. This team can succeed no matter who has the hot hand on the night.
Always Room for Improvement:
The two areas this season in which Virginia has often seemed in need of work have been with their rebounding, and their ability to draw fouls. The foul shooting seemed to be the more troublesome of the two entering the day, as their 237 attempts on the season were the lowest of any team in the ACC by a wide margin. However, this game showed a far more aggressive team, willing to drive into the paint and draw contact. Hopefully, this will begin a trend, as once Virginia reaches the line, they are making their shots at a 76% clip, good for third in the League.
The rebounding in this game, however, left something to be desired. NC State was allowed 14 second-chance points, off of 14 offensive rebounds. The Wolfpack had more offensive rebounds than defensive, a rare occurrence, and one that should be avoided when Virginia faces a team with more offensive firepower. They were able to recover due to their suffocating defense, but after defending for a full 30 seconds, better to crash the glass and come down with the board, than to defend yet another 30.
Virginia hits the road to face Georgia Tech on Thursday night at 8:00 pm. Tech is on a four game win streak, including victories over Miami, and Notre Dame.