U.Va. needed full cast to foil UNC

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - SPORTS - [email protected]­Dis­patch.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. f it takes a vil­lage to raise a child, and if it takes de­fense to win cham­pi­onships, in the ACC, it takes a com­plete team to win a game on the road against one of the best teams in the coun­try af­ter com­ing off a loss to maybe the best team in the coun­try.

And we mean no slight to Tennessee in this eval­u­a­tion of Duke’s vic­tory over Vir­ginia on Satur­day in Char­lottesville be­cause . . . have you seen the Blue Devils play when they’re at their best?

Vir­ginia, though, es­tab­lished a high stan­dard for it­self Mon­day night in the Smith Cen­ter.

At any point in the sec­ond half, the Cava­liers could have folded.

It could have come when North Carolina went on a 17-3 run in the sec­ond half. It could have come when Kyle Guy ex­tended the sub-Arc­tic shoot­ing streak that has be­dev­iled him for the past two weeks.

It could have come when the Cava­liers

IOPINION

made one too many turnovers for coach Tony Ben­nett to en­dure and in­stead of stay­ing calm dur­ing a time­out, as point guard Ty Jerome ad­vised his team­mates in the hud­dle, Ben­nett went bal­lis­tic.

Per­haps it was a co­in­ci­dence. Per­haps it was Jerome’s call for calm that tri­umphed over Ben­nett’s call to arms, but what­ever the case, Vir­ginia went the fi­nal 12 min­utes against the No. 8-ranked team in the coun­try, the No. 2 team in the ACC in the Dean Dome with a ca­pac­ity crowd roar­ing, with­out a turnover.

In the process, a different player or set of play­ers stepped into the breach when the Cava­liers seemed to be fad­ing.

“Ev­ery­body, ev­ery­body who played,” Ben­nett said. “I told them [be­fore the game] this isn’t about winning and los­ing. This is an im­por­tant game to get back to what we need to do.”

Jerome gave a smile that said, “If you be­lieve that, can I in­ter­est you in a room on the Lawn with a full bath and a pow­der room?”

It’s pres­ti­gious to live on the Lawn at Vir­ginia, but the rooms are ba­sic.

“He said that,” Jerome said, af­firm­ing the quote. “I’m sure if we’d played well and lost, he would have been OK.”

Maybe. Winning al­ways is prefer­able.

Mon­day night, af­ter es­sen­tially be­ing taken apart by Duke on Satur­day, the Cava­liers did what a team with Fi­nal Four as­pi­ra­tions has to do in a short span of post­sea­son tour­na­ment com­pe­ti­tion. They played their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive chal­leng­ing game on quick turn­around, with­stood the best shot the Tar Heels could have de­liv­ered, came back from a 7-point deficit when UNC seemed to have taken con­trol of the game, and won.

Not eas­ily, but not on some last­sec­ond prayer of a shot, ei­ther.

Guy nailed things for the Cava­liers by sink­ing two 3-point­ers in a span of 45 sec­onds to put the game be­yond Carolina’s reach.

“As­sists 10 and 11 [for Jerome],” Guy said.

When Guy hit the sec­ond 3-pointer, his fifth of the night, to give Vir­ginia a 67-61 lead, backup for­ward Jay Huff said, “We were ex­cited. We didn’t think we were clear, but we thought, ‘We’re good.’”

The Cava­liers were bet­ter than good, and not just be­cause of Guy, even though Ben­nett said, “We’re try­ing to get him those shots, and he de­liv­ered. He just needs a lit­tle bit of space. He’s al­ways one shot away.”

While the Cava­liers were wait­ing for Guy to find his shoot­ing touch, some­one had to pick up the slack. In this case, it was sev­eral some­ones.

Some­times, it was Jerome pen­e­trat­ing and scor­ing or pen­e­trat­ing and pass­ing to the perime­ter where De’An­dre Hunter knocked down jump shot af­ter jump shot.

Some­times, it was Huff, go­ing through a phase where he did a few lit­tle things — made a cru­cial bas­ket, grabbed two re­bounds and had a steal — to hold off the Tar Heels for a few more pos­ses­sions.

“One time, we al­most had a shot­clock vi­o­la­tion, and Huff comes across the lane and gets it and lays it up and gets fouled,” UNC coach Roy Wil­liams said.

“You’ve got to give them credit for mak­ing it a lot more dif­fi­cult.”

The stats show Jerome with 15 points, 11 as­sists, two turnovers, Hunter with 20 points, and Guy with 20 points. They com­bined for 55 of Vir­ginia’s 69 points. But that wouldn’t have been enough with­out Ma­madi Di­akite’s 6 points and four blocked shots, with­out Brax­ton Key’s six re­bounds, with­out the 3 points, two as­sists, two steals and out­stand­ing de­fense of fresh­man guard Ki­hei Clark, all 5-feet-9 of him.

As usual, Jerome, Hunter and Guy were the stars.

But the stars would not have had smiles that shone so brightly had the sup­port­ing cast not de­liv­ered so many lit­tle things in so many different ways against the Tar Heels.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

North Carolina’s Kenny Wil­liams (L.C. Bird) guards Vir­ginia’s Kyle Guy dur­ing the Cava­liers’ road win. Guy scored 20 points.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Vir­ginia’s De’An­dre Hunter re­acts fol­low­ing the Cava­liers’ road win over North Carolina. Hunter shot 3 for 3 from 3-point range and fin­ished with 20 points.

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