No. 9 Virginia faces rival Virginia Tech in ACC matchup
Commonwealth Clash comes to JPJ
After a tough loss Sunday, the No. 9 Virginia men’s basketball team is hoping to bounce back with a win against ACC rival Virginia Tech.
In their most recent matchup, the Cavaliers (16-4, 6-2 ACC) fell to No. 4 ranked Villanova, who was ranked No. 1 at tipoff Sunday.
The loss was a heartbreaker for the Cavaliers, whose nine point halftime lead had dissolved with just under six minutes remaining in the game.
The game came down to the final possession — with 12 seconds left, it was tied. After a Villanova timeout, the Wildcats’ senior guard and National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart drove for a layup and missed, but freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo tipped the rebound in at the buzzer for the win. Prior to the game-winning tip, DiVincenzo had one point and no field goal attempts.
The Wildcats’ three-point shooting helped them get back in the game, draining four of their seven made threes over the last eight minutes of the game. Virginia also struggled to take care of the ball at moments.
“I think we kind of let them get going when we had some turnovers that led to some transition buckets,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the loss.
Despite the disappointing result of the game, Virginia freshman guard Ty Jerome had a stellar performance, scoring a team- and career-high 15 points, including a runner to tie the game before Villanova’s final possession. It was Jerome’s second-consecutive standout performance after scoring eight minutes in just 14 minutes against Notre Dame in the game prior.
Aside from one jumper made by senior guard London Perrantes, Jerome scored all of Virginia’s points over the last five minutes of the game.
Although Perrantes is Virginia's leading scorer, the senior struggled in the loss, finishing with four points on two of 11 shooting, which included three misses from downtown.
Junior guard Marial Shayok, who has consistently put up double digits since being put into the starting lineup, added 14 points. Junior forward Isaiah Wilkins contributed 12 points and eight rebounds as well.
Virginia Tech (15-5, 5-4 ACC) most recently came off a 85-79 win against Boston College.
Senior guard Seth Allen and junior guard Justin Bibbs each scored 18 points, and senior forward Zach LeDay added 17 to lead the Hokies to victory.
Virginia Tech finished the game shooting 59.1 percent, which included 12 makes on 18 attempts from downtown.
Allen is someone the Cavaliers should keep their eye on. This season, he is shooting 57.4 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from behind the arc.
Virginia Tech’s roster includes several players who have the ability to step up and score. LeDay is putting up 16.1 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting. In total, the Hokies have five players who are averaging double digits — which doesn’t include Bibbs, who had 18 points last game.
“I think that they’re really good in transition,” Bennett said about Virginia Tech. “They have a ton of just different guys that can knock down shots, play off the bounce, very competitive, they’re mixing up their defenses.”
However, if Virginia’s pack line defense keeps up, it will make scoring much more difficult for Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers continue to lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing opponents only 53.7 points per game.
Bennett emphasized the importance of minimizing turnovers and getting back on transition defense against Virginia Tech.
“One, you have to take care of the ball,” Bennett said. “And then, any time they get a rebound, they’re pushing so you’re discipline and willingness to really get back and set your defense.”
With continued strong efforts from Jerome and Shayok on both ends of the court, along with the consistent play of Wilkins, Virginia should be able to take care of Virginia Tech.
Eyes will be on Perrantes to see how he bounces back from the Villanova loss. He may get a few more open looks if the Hokies play a zone defense.
With the ACC arguably the most competitive conference in the NCAA, a win against Virginia Tech is key for Virginia’s national ranking. This will be the first of two match-ups this year between the rivals.
Last year, the Cavaliers dropped a close game against the Hokies. However, when the teams faced off again later in the season, Virginia responded with an 18-point win.
The game tips-off Wednesday at John Paul Jones Arena at 8 p.m.