Running the Gauntlet
In some fan circles, the stretch of games between the road game at Georgia Tech and the road game at Miami became known as The Gauntlet.
|January 18||at Georgia Tech||Win|
|January 21||at Wake Forest||Win|
|January 27||at Duke||Win|
|February 3||at Syracuse||Win|
|February 7||at Florida State||Win|
|February 10||Virginia Tech||Loss|
|February 13||at Miami||Win|
Nine games in twenty six days. Six of those games on the road including trips to Duke, Syracuse, and both Florida schools. And this team only lost one of those games. It's an incredible accomplishment. On the surface, an 8 - 1 record seemed like a wildly optimistic prognosis. And the Miami win may have been the most unlikely other than Duke considering the confluence of events.
- Ninth game in twenty six days.
- Sixth road game in that stretch.
- Second trip to Florida in six days.
- First game ranked #1 in the AP Poll since the infamous Chaminade game in 1982.
- The Hoos had one win all time at Miami (a double overtime win in 2015) in eight games.
On top of all of that, the Hoos came into this game struggling to find their health. Since his back injury against Clemson, Isaiah Wilkins has not looked like the same player. De'Andre Hunter sprained his ankle late in the second half at Duke but had not missed any time. Devon Hall was overcoming a bout of pneumonia that surfaced sometime after the Duke game. Ty Jerome sprained his thumb in practice leading up to the Virginia Tech game and had his right hand heavily bandaged as a result.
And then there was Nigel Johnson who missed the Louisville, at Syracuse, and at Florida State games due to a suspension for violating team rules. Johnson played sparingly, and only in the first half, in the game against Virginia Tech.
Despite all of these obstacles, real and imagined, the Hoos never trailed at Miami. The game was won largely on the back of another superlative defensive effort by Virginia. The Hoos held Miami to only sixteen first half points, a season low allowed by UVA. The first half also included a 7:21 scoreless streak for Miami.
Miami's leading scored, 6-11 forward Dewan Huell, was not only held scoreless, but also managed to attempt only one shot. And freshman phenom Lonnie Walker IV, a former UVA recruiting target, scored an inefficient six points in thirty one minutes (2 for 8 from the field, 0 for 4 from three, 2 for 2 from the foul line).
Dominant defense was certainly the theme of the night for the Hoos. But on offense, the game saw much improved shot selection from Kyle Guy, especially on the heels of many questionable shots in the loss to Virginia Tech. Guy scored thirteen points on 5 for 9 from the field overall, 2 for 5 from three, and 1 for 1 from the foul line.
The lasting impression from this game, on either side of the court, however, will be De'Andre Hunter's continued evisceration of opponents' zone defenses. Hunter once again demonstrated that he's a matchup nightmare from the high post against a 2-3 zone. He also leaked out against the Hurricanes' zone to go 3 for 6 from three including his second four point play of the season. The four point play capped a decisive 17 to 6 run over nearly six and a half minutes late in the second half. During that run, Hunter scored thirteen of his game high twenty two points.
This game, perhaps, will be forever remembered for Hunter's baptizing of the masses.
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