Men’s basketball preps to take on VCU, Monmouth

Cavaliers to play in first road game of season

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Senior guard Devon Hall will look to help lead Virginia to wins over VCU and Monmouth this weekend. 

Mariana Fraser | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia men’s basketball team will look to continue its solid start to the season this weekend, traveling to Richmond Friday to take on VCU and returning to Charlottesville Sunday for a game against Monmouth. 

In their most recent matchup, the Cavaliers topped Austin Peay, 93-49, with Virginia’s 93 points a career-high for Coach Tony Bennett at Virginia. After the game, Bennett showed enthusiasm for the team’s play, which featured Virginia’s younger players stepping up and making an impact and also strong performances from more experienced players. 

“I thought we did a solid job of taking advantage of that and it was good to see those young guys get their feet wet,” Bennett said. 

Despite their solid start, the Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) are unranked for the first time since the 2012-13 season. However, the team has showed no lack of confidence in its first few games this season — freshman guard De’Andre Hunter and freshman forward Jay Huff were particularly impactful in the game against Austin Peay. Huff, already a crowd favorite, lit up the court against Austin Peay with 16 points and five blocks. Senior guard Devon Hall, one of three seniors on the team, showed nothing but excitement for Huff’s future at the University. 

“He was great,” Hall said. “He shot it with confidence. I mean, to not play and hop in a game and do that, you have to have some toughness with you. I was really glad to see him do that.”

Heading into this weekend, the Cavaliers are taking nothing for granted against two strong teams hungry for an early-season signature win. VCU (2-0, 0-0 A10) is led by senior guard Jonathan Williams and senior forward Justin Tillman. The team has boasted a high-octane offense in its first two games against Grambling State and North Florida, scoring over 90 points in each. 

Bennett expressed the Cavaliers’ anticipation for Friday’s road match. 

“I think the atmosphere we’ll face against VCU, having been in there before, will be different and, obviously, they can play,” Bennett said. “Their program is established, [has] excellent coaching and I’m impressed with them. So, we’ll have to really be ready and it will be a good experience for us. And again, as you can see, matchups will matter how much guys play and just how the game’s going.”

Hunter highlighted the need to continue improving this week before the team takes on the Rams. 

“We are going to have to be strong with the ball,” Hunter said. “I have never played at VCU but some of the older guys have. We are going to try to make practice as real as the game. We are going to have to go against a lot of pressure. On Friday, we are going to have to take care of the ball.”

The Cavaliers and the Rams last met during the 2014-15 season at the Siegel Center, where the Cavaliers won, 74-57 thanks to a late 15-0 run engineered by then-junior guard Justin Anderson. Last season, the Rams earned a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament and have looked sharp since. 

The Hoos return to Charlottesville for a Sunday matchup against Monmouth (2-1, 0-0 MAAC). The Hawks feature a high-powered offense and are led by junior forward Diago Quinn and junior guard Micah Seaborn, who has scored in double figures in each game this season. Monmouth’s sharpshooting earned them the regular-season MAAC championship last season, evidence of their talent and ability to pull off an early-season upset. The Cavaliers will look to use their historical home-court advantage to down the Hawks and continue their four-game home winning streak — their last home loss came to Miami on Feb. 20 this year. 

Hall and senior forward Isaiah Wilkins will provide senior leadership to guide the team in this weekend’s contests. They have each taken on increased responsibilities and leadership each year at the University. Following the Austin Peay game, Bennett underlined the importance of senior leadership, especially with the team’s younger players who have stepped up. 

“I think [Hall] has improved every year as much as anybody, just keeps working and working, and I believe that he’s capable of that,” Bennett said. “I think he’s learning to establish that. It was good to see him get to the lane and then knock down some shots. He’s earned the right to be assertive.”

The Cavaliers play at the Siegel Center Friday at 4 p.m. in Richmond in their first road contest of the year, and take on the Hawks at John Paul Jones Arena at 1 p.m. Sunday. 

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