Purdue coach Matt Painter and legions of Boilermakers have had this date circled in red on the calendar since the ACC v B1G challenges games were announced back in June. In a season where the Cavaliers will always have the big X on their back, this game was always going to be the biggest X. Would UVa be up to the task of walking into Mackey Arena and shutting up a raucous crowd?
No. No. Definitely not.
Jay Huff’s UVa future. I’m struggling to come up with anything positive from this loss. But maybe the sub section of Cavalier Nation that has been dreading the prospect of Jay Huff turning pro after this season can relax and breathe deeply. Huff is going to be around for his redshirt senior season, at least based on his play so far. He’s a wonderful talent; he’s not ready for the NBA. One play encapsulated Huff’s night: early in the second half, the team down by 21 after yet another Purdue 3, Stattmann was on the wing, made of the few, nice entry passes into Huff, who was relatively wide open. Huff spun – slowly – and went up – weakly – and was fouled. He missed the shot, so no chance for the 3-point play, and then he missed one of the two free throws. It was a lackadaisical play on a night filled with many of them.
Jack Salt. Who would have thought that with the Big Three of Ty Jerome, DeAndre Hunter, and Kyle Guy all gone, that I’d be writing about Salt? For the second straight game we were pushed around under our own boards and I think that this is the real legacy of Salt. Salt knew he wasn’t going to block many shots; it wasn’t his game. Huff and Mamadi Diakite are both fine shot blockers, so they are going up and leaving their feet, and position, behind. To make it worse, many times Huff and Diakite go up at the same time and that leaves the guards to be manhandled on the defensive glass. By comparison, Salt would stay on his feet and put a body on the biggest guy he could find.
London Perrantes. Kihei Clark channeled his inner London Perrantes, and not in a good way. With Sasha Stefanovic channeling his own Carsen Edwards, especially in the first 5 minutes of the game, the Cavaliers were quickly down, and for 30 minutes of the game, were down by double digits. We’re not shooting the three well (boy, is that an understatement), we’re having trouble getting the ball down low, and we’re relatively stagnant running our sets. Walking the ball up court when you’re down by more than 15 just seems… irresponsible? 10 minutes into the game we were down 16-9. The half ended with Purdue having doubled the lead and the game was over. Clark played much of the game like he knew it was over.
Kyle Guy. Guy’s energy and commitment to running to space largely defined the Virginia offense the past three years. We don’t have anyone right now running like that, but Purdue did. Stefanovic was dominant all night, sprinting off every screen and going 6 – 10 from beyond the arc. Tomas Woldetensae and Stattmann struggled all night to keep up with him, and even Casey Morsell, whose defense has been superlative thus far, was torched by Stefanovic.
Joe Harris. Yet another game, yet another abysmal shooting night from 3 for UVa. 4 – 24. That’s 16%, and if you are counting, somehow that’s the third time this year we’ve pulled off that dubious accomplishment.
Oh, wait, it was the Cavaliers who were cavalanched. 17 points at half time, three scoreless droughts of almost 5 minutes or more, and a 12 – 3 steals deficit. Our guys were out-hustled in every facet of the game. Dan Dakich, who I think is the most knowledgeable announcer in the game, called the team effort “incredibly lazy” and I’m thinking he was being charitable.
Braxton Key. This team has only four bona fide starters and Key missed his second straight game. We’re likely to lose more games than win with him out of the lineup.
Joe Harris. Again. There haven’t been that many losses like this in the Peak Bennett Era, and maybe it can provide the teachable moment, much like the Tennessee game did way back in the dawn of Bennett’s tenure. We’re going to get a chance to see which player is going to shake this loss off, stand up strong against UNC, and provide the spark. This is just one game, and we have 20 more left to go. Maybe being the underdog vs UNC will be a good thing for this team.