Salt, Jack Salt
You would be forgiven, if, at halftime of UVA's ACC quarterfinal game against NC State you thought" "here we go again." For any seasoned Wahoo fan, there were three things at work in today's game.
UVA'S record against the 'Pack in the ACC Tournament is their worst versus any program in the conference. It was 2-14 entering today's game including a five game losing streak in conference tourney play. The last win was a two point victory all the way back in 1986.
The Spectrum Center in Charlotte is also home to two of the more frustrating postseason losses in memory. Everyone knows the history of the one game. That won't be rehashed here. But it was also the location of the second round loss to Michigan State in 2015 when the Hoos were a 2 seed.
And finally, memories were certain to harken back to the Hoos' most difficult win of the season, the one point overtime win in Raleigh. It was arguably the worst game UVA played all season. Portions of this first half evoked strong memories of that evening in Raleigh.
Things seemed kosher early as a layup from Mamadi Diakite on an assist from Kihei Clark at 12:16 gave the Hoos an eight point lead at 18-10.
NC State would close the half on a nineteen to nine run, however, claiming a 29 to 27 halftime lead.
The stats at the half were anything but winning basketball. UVA shot 10 for 24 from the field (42%), 4 for 11 (36%) from three, and 3 for 6 (50%) from the foul line. NC State won the battle of the boards 19 to 17. And the Hoos committed 6 turnovers.
But for Kyle Guy's shooting in the first half, things would be bleak. Guy scored fourteen while no other Hoo chipped in more than three. He was 5 for 7 from the field and 3 for 4 from three.
A two point halftime deficit is no big deal for this program. The first half is typically just the opening battle in a Tony Bennett war of attrition. But the Hoos seemingly limped into this halftime break. Jay Huff's three with 49 seconds to go, cutting the State lead to two, did seem to breath some life back into the team.
But if this was not going to be a quick trip to Charlotte, someone would need to rise to the occasion as Guy probably wasn't going to win the game on his own.
Enter Salt. Jack Salt.
The most unlikely of heroes emerged in the second half Thursday afternoon.
Salt would score fifteen of his career high eighteen in the second half today. There was a dunk that earned Salt a technical foul courtesy of Jamie Luckie's need to be the center of attention. There were acrobatic stick backs at the rim. There was an improbable 3 for 3 from the foul line. And even more improbably, there was a baseline drive from the three point line that resulted in an and one earning reverse layup.
Here's the video proof that this wasn't some sort of bizarre Jack Salt fan fiction.
And while everyone was astonished by Jack's antics, Kyle Guy chipped in another fifteen finishing with twenty-nine points. That included another day of expert marksmanship from three, finishing 7 for 9.
A two point halftime deficit transformed into a twenty point win. A superlative shooting afternoon from Kyle Guy. Another trip to the ACC semis. And yet, all of those were secondary stories. It was truly Jack Salt's afternoon.
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