Kyle Guy leads men’s basketball past Pittsburgh in ACC Tournament
Virginia freshman tied a career-high of 20 points
The No. 6 seed Virginia men’s basketball team pulled away late from a pesky Pittsburgh team in the second round of the ACC Tournament, using the three ball to get the 75-63 victory.
The Cavaliers (22-9, 11-7 ACC) came out strong in the first half, but they let Pittsburgh (16-17, 4-14 ACC) hang around with untimely fouls as the Panthers got hot from three-point range.
“You can look at [Pittsburgh’s] record, but they’re an offensive team that’s hard to guard,” coach Tony Bennett said. “We had to answer them with some baskets, and then we tightened up the defense.”
Freshman guard Kyle Guy took over the first half for the Cavaliers, putting up 11 points and making 3-4 three point attempts to give his team momentum. Junior guard Darius Thompson came off the bench and drained two-straight shots from downtown to get the Cavaliers to 21 points with under 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Pittsburgh would cut Virginia’s lead to three as the Cavaliers hit a scoring drought, but senior guard London Perrantes drained a jump shot with four minutes remaining to help Virginia regain momentum. Guy and freshman guard Ty Jerome each hit a three to give Virginia an 11-point lead at the half. The Cavaliers shot 7-14 from behind the arc in the first frame.
The Panthers began to claw their way back in the second half. Senior forward Michael Young put up seven points in the half’s first four minutes and senior guard Chris Jones nailed a three to cut Virginia’s lead to six at the first media timeout. Conversely, Virginia got cold from the field in the first 10 minutes of the half. However, the team kept its lead by getting to the free throw line and through the phenomenal play of Guy — who had nine points during this stretch.
Pittsburgh cut the lead to one point by way of a dunk from senior guard Sheldon Jeter with 13 minutes left — leaving Panthers fans roaring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Virginia lost the strong post defense of sophomore center Jack Salt for a good chunk of the second half, with four fouls keeping the New Zealander on the bench.
Impassioned by the calls against him, Salt made the play of the game when he dove for a ball headed out of bounds and knocked it off a Pitt defender to retain possession. The play shifted momentum back in the Cavaliers’ favor in the middle of the half.
“Those [plays] are momentum changers,” Bennett said of Salt’s effort. “I tell the guys it’s about the heart at this level, every possession matters, and that one mattered.”
With Virginia mentally locked in the game again, its leader began to take over. Perrantes scored eight points in a row to put Virginia up by 10 as the Cavaliers reaffirmed their grip on the game. The senior looked calm and collected as he locked up the game for his team.
“My mentality is to have fun [and] to lead these guys,” Perrantes said. “We’ve been here before. We’ve played all these teams before ... don’t put any extra weight on your shoulders.”
Salt iced the game with two rare free throws and a dunk to ignite Cavalier fans present in Brooklyn.
Guy tied his career-high with 20 points in the game, looking poised and confident in his first collegiate postseason match.
“I knew we needed a bucket … I’m not really afraid of the moment, but whatever the team needs from me, I’m going to do,” Guy said.
Guy got a major reinforcement from Perrantes in the second half, as the senior scored 13 of his 15 points in the second frame. Jerome also chipped in 11 points in his first postseason game.
Virginia advances to face the No. 3 seed Notre Dame in the quarterfinals Thursday. The Cavaliers handled the Fighting Irish 71-54 on the road in January, but the Fighting Irish’s high-powered offense will be a tough matchup. Junior forward Bonzie Colson, a First-Team All-ACC selection, put up 20 points against Virginia last time out, and Notre Dame will likely shoot better than 16.7 percent from three as it did in the January matchup.
“As long as we hang our head on our defense,” Perrantes said, “I guess that’s why we’ve been having a good record with them.”
Virginia will look to keep rolling against the Fighting Irish tomorrow night after a solid opening-night victory against Pittsburgh. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. at the Barclays Center.