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New Big Three Slams Columbia

Game Highlights

Against Columbia, the three bigs put an exclamation point on the answer to the main question coming into the season: who would step up to compensate for the loss of The Big Three.  The Three Bigs were The New Big Three against Columbia, their dominance showing in their SPI (Successful Possessions Index) numbers.  Huff led the way with a 25 SPI on just 58 possessions played (PP), a rate unheard-of before this game, while Diakite and Key were close behind with a 16 SPI on 47 PP and a 15 SPI on 58 PP.  Huff also posted an insane 18 Glue Index - which has been enough for Glue Hoo of the Game several times on over 100 PP and Huff did it in 58 - to earn Glue Hoo of the Game honors.  Huff always has been a player who could make a concentrated impact on a game, but what he has done over a 2-3 minute span before, he did for almost his entire 19 minutes.  He was a dominant force on offense with dunks, post moves and his first three of the season, and on defense with 5 blocked shots, 2 steals, and a 15 SPID (Successful Possessions Index-Defense).

Huff was not the only big to make dominant contributions on both ends of the floor.  Diakite matched Huff's 13 points and three-pointer made, and yanked down 8 boards, all in just 20 minutes of action.  His three-pointer was a thing of beauty off of a high ball screen action between Huff and Kihei Clark.  He also showed off improved decision-making on post-up plays, attacking the paint rather than settling for fallaway jumpers.  He traded a 30% jumper for free throws.  Defensively he was all over the place supporting his mates in Zay fashion.  While Huff did most of his offensive damage in the first half, Key took over in the second, pouring in 8 of his 9 points on a follow, a couple of drives and a nice baseline jumper off an inbounds play.  Braxton was the leading rebounder with 9 boards evenly split between offensive (4) and defensive (5).

The Three Bigs combined for 35 of Virginia's 60 points, and the fourth veteran Clark also hit double-figures with 10.  Kihei added 5 assists to just one turnover, 3 boards and even a blocked shot.  He consistently got into the lane and made plays, and made Columbia star Mike Smith work hard for every one of his 16 points.  Given the early season shooting struggles, Kihei's 2-3 from the arc was encouraging.

Behind the leadership of the veteran Cavaliers, Virginia jumped out to a 10-0 lead and never looked back.  Columbia would make it 10-5, but thereafter the Cavalier lead just grew steadily like a Dow Jones Index historical graph until it peaked at 26 with 7:44 to play.

Despite being out-classed, the Ivy League team was a good test for Virginia.  "They run difficult stuff to guard," Coach Tony Bennett said after the game. "Their player Mike Smith, he's so clever with the ball, he puts pressure on your defense.  You better figure out what you're going to do when either he's coming off handoffs or ball screens... They run some Princeton-like action that's cutting and moving so it tests your discipline and at times they exposed some things where we weren't disciplined."  Bennett also liked the experience Columbia presented his team on the other side of the ball.  "We've gone against two teams that played primarily zone, so this team played more of a pack-type defense and they did some different things against ball screens."

Smith was every bit as good as advertised, and great preparation for the Mong00se as some tough offensive point guards await in the ACC.  Columbia's leader scored 16 points on pretty good shooting while closely guarded, but did cough up 6 turnovers.  Columbia's big men hurt the Cavaliers in different ways: the 6-7 forward Randy Brumant was 3-6 from the arc when the Hoo big men did not pick him up quickly enough on pick-and-pops or close off his space enough, and 6-7 Ike Nweke grabbed 6 offensive rebounds, mostly when his defender had turned him loose to go after a shot (occasionally due to a perimeter player losing his man).  Virginia mostly did a great job of staying with Columbia's cutters, but the young perimeter players periodically broke down late against the continuous Lions.  The way the well-coached Ivy team ran its offense without let-up was great practice for Virginia's young team.

 

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