U.Va. needed full cast to foil UNC
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
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.
North Carolina’s Kenny Williams (L.C. Bird) guards Virginia’s Kyle Guy during the Cavaliers’ road win. Guy scored 20 points.
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.