The Virginia Cavaliers overcame the effects of their lingering IALSS to squeeze out a 64-58 win over Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum, thanks to a third-conseuctive 20+point outburst by Kyle Guy. His wingman this game was Ty Jerome with 16 points and 6 assists. Guy and Jerome combined to shoot 9-19 from three, while the Hokies as a team were 3-28.
The play ending the first half pretty much encapsulated the story of that half: Kihei Clark ends a good defensive possession by running down the rebound, then promptly passes it to the cutting Virginia Tech player who scores the easy basket to cut Virginia's lead to three at the half. The only anomalous part of that sequence was that Virginia secured the defensive rebound - something they failed to do through most of the first half. This should not be read to pick on Clark: that play merely represented the effort of the whole team, as every player emitted toxic brain farts in the first 20 minutes.
One could say the brain farting included the coaching staff, which stultified its own offense with poor lineups (it is time to remove Kihei from the starting lineup and place him firmly in the role of backup point guard) and regressive offensive strategy:
Tonight's Virginia offensive play charting at Virginia Tech— Jordan Sperber (@hoopvision68) February 19, 2019
- 34 plays of their traditional Blocker-Move (aka "Sides") for 29 points
- 13 plays of Continuity Ball Screen for 19 points pic.twitter.com/GJPKsZqYZ8
Because the BM is the perfect way to attack a defense that is putting heavy pressure on the ball with heavy deny and jumping cutters.
It was Ulysses S. Grant against Robert E. Lee, with Virginia winning despite blunders and ham-handed strategy because Tech simply ran low on energy in the second half, having lapses of ball pressure and screen discipline that enabled Guy and Jerome to find open shots often enough to carry the lame on their backs. All four of Tech's ACC-calibre players went the entire way, with coach Buzz Williams cycling his bench through the fifth lineup spot hoping to get anything positive out of it.
Tech's fatigued stumble came six minutes into the second half after they had closed to within 4 again. Braxton Key drew the defense to him and found Mamadi Diakite on the baseline for a power dunk. After a couple of wasted possessions by each team, Ty Outlaw fouled De'Andre Hunter on the offensive rebound, and Hunter hit both free throws. Suddenly the Hokies were down by 8 - their largest deficit of the night. Buzz called time out, but it did not help. Hunter blocked Nickeil Alexander-Walker's shot, then at the other end outfought five players for one, two, three offensive rebounds before finally bulling the ball into the basket for the ten-point lead, 48-38 with 11 minutes remaining.
Virginia wasn't quite ready to let the Hokies fall. First they failed to secure the rebound of an Alexander-Walker miss and Key fouled Kerry Blackshear, who hit both free throws. Then Blackshear stole the ball from Guy (it might be more accurate to say Guy gave him the ball) and Jonathan Kabongo of all people took the ball to the rack for the and-1. Just like that, it was a 5-point game again.
Remember that fatigue? The stumble? First Ty Jerome canceled Kabongo's harm with a 3-point shot, then Hunter picked Blackshear's pocket near midcourt and slashed to the rim for a dunk. Back to a 10-point game. The Cavaliers pushed it up to 13 on Key's three-pointer with just under 6:00 on the clock.
Key had been mired in a brutal 1-13 slump from the arc, two of those misses coming earlier in the half. After the second one, he dropped his head, and Ty Jerome came over to him to tell him, "Keep your head up. Keep shooting. I believe in you." Jerome backed up his words with action, making the pass to Key for the big make. A few minutes later, Key would close out Virginia's scoring with his second three in a row.
The final margin would have been greater if not for a comedy of Hoo errors that included Diakite missing a breakaway dunk and Hunter missing a 1-and-1 front end. Turnovers, missed free throws, poor boxouts, lackluster effort for loose balls and piss-poor inbounds defense continued to characterize Virginia's effort for the fifth straight game. The Cavaliers are showing all the hallmarks of a team that is just ready to get past the grind and on to the fun part of the season.
It's a long season.
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