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No. 2 Virginia rolls to 81-51 win over Georgia Tech

Jerome, Hunter lead Cavaliers to 30-point victory

<p>Junior guard Ty Jerome finished with a game-high 19 points.</p>

Junior guard Ty Jerome finished with a game-high 19 points.

With the end of the regular season approaching, No. 2 Virginia came out Wednesday night and picked up a dominant win over Georgia Tech to stay in first place in the ACC. The Cavaliers (25-2, 13-2 ACC) rolled to an 81-51 victory over a struggling Yellow Jacket (12-17, 4-12 ACC) team, led by big performances from junior guard Ty Jerome and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter. 

“We played solid tonight and did what we had to do,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “To have the game in a spot where you can balance the minutes and get different looks at guys and lower that minute count, that’s always a positive. Sometimes in this league you don’t always have that opportunity, but we played well enough to be able to give everybody an opportunity.” 

Virginia started freshman guard Kihei Clark, Hunter, Jerome, junior guard Kyle Guy and junior forward Mamadi Diakite in the midweek matchup. 

While the Cavaliers came into the game riding a four-game winning streak and sitting atop the ACC standings and Georgia Tech entered the game having only won four ACC games all season, the first few minutes of play remained close with the Yellow Jackets holding on to a one-point lead at the five-minute mark.

As the half progressed, however, Virginia started to open a lead that Georgia Tech couldn’t compete with. The Cavaliers shot 53.3 percent overall and 54.5 percent from behind the arc, which guided them to a lead as large as 21-points in the first half. The success from three was a marked improvement from the Cavaliers’ last performance against Louisville, when they shot just 11.8 percent from three-point range.

Coming off a career-high 26 points over the weekend, Hunter continued to be the difference maker in the game, picking up 14 points in the first half on 5-for-8 shooting. Jerome and Guy also got things going offensively, picking up nine and six points, respectively. 

“He’s a great scorer, a great all-around player,” Jerome said of Hunter. “So, when he comes out aggressive and he’s giving us points, and opens up the floor for everyone else, it makes it much easier for us.”

On the defensive end, Virginia held Georgia Tech to 31 percent shooting on field goals and just 14.3 percent shooting from three. The Yellow Jackets, along with the Cavaliers, each had four turnovers in the first 20 minutes of play. 

Starting the second-half with a 41-22 lead, the Cavaliers continued to dominate the Yellow Jackets, with Georgia Tech only scoring four points in the half’s opening five minutes. With their lead never threatened, Virginia finished shooting 55.6 percent on field goals and 52.9 percent from three to pick up an 81-51 win. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, were 37.5 percent on all field goal attempts and 29.4 percent from three. 

Jerome finished as the leading scorer for the night after dropping 19 points on 8-13 shooting, while also picking up four assists. Hunter was right behind Jerome with 18 points, while Guy also scored in double figures after picking up 11 points. Diakite finished as the team’s leading rebounder with eight rebounds to go along with three blocked shots. 

“He’s so quick off the floor — he’s got a gift,” Bennett said of Diakite. “It seems like his timing is improving as the years are going on … He’s really got a special ability there, and it seems he’s coming into his own with that.” 

Not only was the win over the Yellow Jackets a dominant performance, but it also secured Virginia a double-bye in the ACC tournament, meaning that the Cavaliers are a lock to finish in the top-four of the conference. 

“That’s an awesome accomplishment, it really is, and we’re thankful for that,” Jerome said. “You never want to take anything for granted and we worked really hard to do that so, we’re thankful for that but we have such a long way to go, so much better to get so we’ve got to keep working.” 

The Cavaliers will now stay in Charlottesville as they prepare to host their next opponent, Pittsburgh. The Panthers (12-16, 2-13 ACC) currently sit in last place in conference standings, with their last league win Jan. 14. The game is scheduled for a 2 p.m. tip-off Saturday from John Paul Jones Arena.


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