Man Down - Next Man Up
The back muscle Ty Jerome strained early in the NC State game kept him out of Saturday's battle with Miami. As a result, the world got to see the only thing it really cared about this game: The matchup between Kihei Clark and Chris Lykes. Miami's 5-7 point guard might be the only player in the ACC shorter than the 5-9 Clark. While Lykes showed why he was a top 100 recruit coming out of high school despite his size, with a game-high 16 points and the better of the individual duel with Clark, Kihei showed why he IS The Mong00se. He never quit and in the end he walked off with the victors. Lykes had to take 15 shots to get those 16 points, only tallied a lonely assist and committed three personal fouls. Clark scored 9 points on 5 shots - including 2/3 from the arc - with 5 rebounds and 6 assists. However, those numbers came with 6 turnovers, or almost half of UVA's 14 in a second consecutive sloppy offensive performance from the Hoos.
"We were unsound," Coach Tony Bennett admitted after the game. Jerome's absence could explain a lot of the dysfunction against Miami, but when viewed with the NC State performance as a backdrop, the ugliness of the Miami work cannot be completely attributed to the loss of the starting point guard. Kyle Guy tacitly admitted as much when he said the team could be more focused in its preparation for the upcoming Duke game.
This was a stinker. When the Cavaliers weren't throwing the ball away, they were clanking shots off the rim, missing free throws and giving up open looks. Fortunately, Miami shot even worse, and the Hoos won the hustle points. Virginia rebounded almost 40% of their misses (12/32) and turned those into 14 second-chance points. Mamadi Diakite grabbed 5 of those offensive boards as part of another big-time performance. He at times dominated the game with his scoring (11 points), offensive boards, and shot blocking (3 blocks). Mamadi earned the praise of his coach and an appearance in the post-game press conference.
As they had against NC State earlier in the week, Virginia grabbed the initiative in the game, periodically threatened to blow the game open, but couldn't stay focused long enough to put away an opponent that kept struggling. Clark made a number of poor passes, as he appeared a bit too juiced for the matchup and often tried to do too much.
"[Kihei] made some good plays at times. At times he certainly looked like a first year in that setting. That showed. But he did do a lot of good things. He had to play a lot of minutes. Guarding Chris Lykes - he's quick. You could see that," Bennett said of Clark after the game.
It didn't help that his teammates had a hard time putting the ball in the basket. The Hoos as a team shot only 6-17 from three, 8-14 on layups, and 6-10 from the free throw line. Guy was 4-15 from the floor and 2-8 from three.
Guy finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal in 38 minutes of action. He did not commit a turnover, providing a bit of stability for his team. His three-point make with 7:26 remaining was a bit of a turning point. Miami had cut an 11-point lead down to 6, when Braxton Key won a mad scramble for an offensive rebound on Guy's missed three and the ball ended up back in Guy's hands in the corner. He let fly and found the range. Virginia was up by nine, 48-39.
Diakite took over from there. In the five minutes after Kyle's shot (7:30-2:30), Mamadi blocked two shots and scored all 7 of Virginia's points to push the advantage to thirteen at 55-42, and shatter Miami's resistance.
De'Andre Hunter was Virginia's leading scorer with 14 points on 6-13 shooting. Jack Salt led Virginia in rebounding with 9, followed closely by Key with 8. Three Cavaliers played over 35 minutes: Hunter (39), Guy (38) and Clark (37).
The Hoos have a bye leading up to Duke bringing College Game Day to Charlottesville next Saturday, February 9. They will have two days off to rest the bodies and focus on classes.
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