Dog Fights And Dumb Fouls

Game Highlights

Every team deserves a stinker.  The Virginia Cavaliers had avoided laying one during this season of incredible consistency.  Tuesday night in Raleigh, they dropped a big one on the doghouse floor, but managed to escape with the win.  "Coach was actually mad at us," Kyle Guy said after the game.  "We didn't play up to our standards."  The Cavaliers committed 16 turnovers in the game, most of the bonehead variety, and struggled all night to generate any offense against NC State's unexpectedly intense defense.

On the other end, the Cavaliers could not keep a grad transfer from Samford off the offensive boards. Wyatt Walker, a 6-9, 240-pound senior, dominated the paint for the Wolfpack with 5 offensive rebounds, 3 blocked shots and 11 free throw attempts.  Coming into the game as one of the least-fouling teams in the nation, Virginia saw two starters foul out and committed 22 personal fouls, none more potentially damaging than De'Andre Hunter's unbelievably obtuse foul on Markell Johnson's desperation three-point field goal attempt in the last second of overtime.  Fortunately for the Hoos, Johnson missed one of the free throws, and Virginia escaped with the 66-65 win.

Virginia Coach Tony Bennett spoke about Walker after the game:


Despite 8 turnovers, Virginia led at the half 27-23, and overcame three more turnovers en route to expanding that lead to 42-28 at the under-12 media timeout.  It looked like just another ACC game for the Hoos, where they break an opponent's will and the Green Team brings it home.

Not to be.  Strong defense at the rim by the Wolfpack turned the Cavaliers away twice and helped State bring the lead back down to 10, then after the home crowd objected to three fouls in the space of a minute, the Jamie Luckie-led crew swallowed their whistles on State's defensive end, enabling the Wolfpack to shut the Hoos down for the rest of the half.  It was a typical ACC-refereed game, where a home team trailing big in the second half on national TV miraculously manages to not commit any fouls while defending ferociously, while the better team suddenly can't seem to defend without fouling.  At the under-8 time out, the lead was down to 6.

Down the stretch, NC State took advantage of mismatches, as Torin Dorn was being defended by Mamadi Diakite, and Jack Salt ended up on Markell Johnson after yet another Wyatt Walker offensive rebound. Diakite on Dorn was the result of State playing a four-guard lineup and Virginia countering with its normal lineup due to a lack of quality perimeter depth. Freshman sensation Kihei Clark was completely outclassed by the junior Johnson, who is one of the best point guards in the ACC.  Dorn and Johnson took advantage, getting into the lane and causing mayhem. Johnson tied the game at 53 with a pair of free throws on Salt's fifth foul with 0:30 to play.  Ty Jerome took the last shot on a drive to the left side of the basket, but good defense by 6-5 Devon Daniels forced a miss.

The Wolfpack drew first blood in overtime on a Johnson three that also happened to give NC State their only lead of the game. Virginia immediately regained the initiative, however, when Jay Huff dunked through a Wyatt Walker foul and sank the free throw to nullify Johnson's heroics, then after a Johnson turnover Huff drove the lane and was fouled.  He hit 1-2 to put the Cavaliers back on top, 59-58. Braxton Key followed that up with a blocked shot and pair of free throws to make it 61-58 with 3:20 remaining in OT.  After Johnson tied the game at 61 with a pair of free throws, Kyle Guy made his only three of the game to give the Hoos the lead for good, 64-61 with two minutes to play. Virginia denied the Pack three-point opportunities, and Braxton Beverly was forced to settle for two.  Virginia inbounded with 8 seconds on the clock and the one point lead. State was able to foul Hunter with six seconds on the clock. Dre hit both free throws for the three-point lead.  He then committed Virginia's last blunder of the night by plowing into Johnson on the last second three-point attempt.

Hunter and Jerome were Virginia's leading scorers with 15 and 12 points, but each played perhaps his worst game of the season, marked by poor decisions on both ends and careless turnovers.  The two of them combined for half of Virginia's 16 giveaways.  Combine their blunders with Guy's inability to win space for any good looks (Kyle ended up with 10 points) and you have the recipe of a near-disaster.

Jay Huff was the bright spot for Virginia, earning an ACC-season-high 15 minutes and starting the overtime period.  He scored 8 points on 3-3 from the floor and 2-3 from the line, played good defense, and provided the night's inspirational hustle play when he dove on the floor for a loose ball in the backcourt, then got up and ran back to break up a lob pass at the rim.  Half his 4 fouls were not fouls on the other end of the floor.  Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key also scored 8 points each, with Key adding a game-high 8 rebounds and Diakite blocking 4 shots. However, Key had trouble finishing around the rim and nobody could keep Walker off the offensive glass.

Virginia returns home after the two-game road trip to play Miami on Saturday, February 2, then gets a week off before hosting Duke on Saturday, Februay 9, visiting North Carolina two days later.

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