After playing only 9 minutes in the last Saturday’s home loss to West Virginia, University of Virginia true freshman guard Kyle Guy posed a simple question to Cavalier assistant coaches Ron Sanchez and Jason Williford.
“What can I do?,” Guy said he asked.
“I really think I can help this team,” said Guy, a McDonald’s All-American out of Indianapolis, Indiana. “I’m not complaining about my minutes. I’m fine with not playing at all. I just want my team to win.”
Guy sparked the Hoos on Tuesday night, totaling 13 points, 4 assists, 2 rebounds, and 1 steal in 21 minutes as UVA rebounded from the loss to the Mountaineers with a 76-53 beatdown of East Carolina in John Paul Jones Arena. Guy’s performance was part of a complete team effort from the now No. 14 Cavaliers.
“[East Carolina] played a lot of zone and [Kyle Guy] can stretch it and he made some good plays,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “I always look and I say `Could I have played guys more or less?’ In the West Virginia Game, it’s not just about scoring, it’s about so many other things in games like that, taking care of the ball, defending, and those were the things that I looked at from the West Virginia game. In this game, [Kyle Guy] got it going early. Rebounding was a little bit of an issue, but I liked at times having Darius [Thompson], Kyle [Guy], and London [Perrantes] out on the floor, especially against the zone. I think [Guy] deserved more minutes and he got them.”
From the onset, a seemingly refreshed Cavalier squad brought good energy on both sides of the court. East Carolina, though, started hot, making its first 4 3-point attempts – all against good defense – and grabbed a 12-9 advantage at the 14:12 mark of the first half. Virginia trailed, 14-11, with 10:40 left before intermission before a Cavalanche erupted.
While the Pirates cooled off against a stingy defense that forced 9 first half turnovers, Virginia got hot. Between the 10:23 mark, when junior guard Marial Shayok’s 3-pointer went through the net to tie the game at 14, and the under-4 TV timeout, the Cavaliers outscored ECU 23-4. Guy drained 3 triples during the stretch, which ultimately gave the homestanding Hoos control.
“We were okay until that 10-minute point [in the first half],” said East Carolina head coach Jeff Lebo, whose team fell to 7-3. “I think they started out about 1 for 11 from three and then made six in a row. That was really the difference in the game right there.”
Virginia pushed its lead to 42-20 at the half and led by as many as 27 in the second half. Five Cavaliers reached double figures in scoring. Guy had 13, while senior point guard London Perrantes, Shayok, and redshirt freshman post Mamadi Diakite poured in 12 points apiece. Sophomore post Jarred Reuter scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting.
Virginia’s 4-man frontcourt rotation impressed collectively, combining for 32 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 4 steals, and only 2 turnovers. Diakite, Reuter, and sophomore center Jack Salt scored 30 of the 32 points, helping the Hoos outscore the Pirates 36-10 in the paint. Junior Isaiah Wilkins and Reuter had 5 rebounds apiece and contributed all 4 assists and all 4 steals. Diakite had 2 blocks while Wilkins and Salt had 1 each.
The first 10 minutes aside, UVA shot the ball well and made 56.6% of its field goals and 42.9% of its 3’s in the win. Despite starting off cold shooting-wise, the Hoos came out sharp from the beginning. Ball movement was excellent. Eight players made at least 1 assist for Virginia, which had 15 assists on 15 made field goals in the first half (and its first 18 field goals overall) and totaled 22 assists on the night. Junior guard Darius Thompson led the way with 6 assists, while Perrantes chipped in 5.
Virginia took care of the ball as well, finishing with only 6 turnovers. Meanwhile, East Carolina turned the ball over 13 times. The visitors made 10 of 23 shots from beyond the arc but shot only 33.3% from the field overall.
“I really challenged the guys to play hard and have a great hunger about them,” Bennett said. “I said, ‘We are a blue-collar program and if we are, it will show up in our effort on the defensive end and offensively,’ and I thought the guys responded. East Carolina played a lot of zone early and we shot them out of it. I thought we made them earn most of their shots. Even though they hit some threes early, they were pretty tough and contested threes, so I was pleased with the effort and responding from a game that was very physical against West Virginia, where we did not play our best at times. Every game is so important for us to take steps in the right direction.”
This total team win gives the now 8-1 Cavaliers a good feeling heading into an 11-day break for exams. Virginia takes the court once again on Saturday, Dec. 17, when Robert Morris comes to Charlottesville.
“We definitely wanted to come out strong for the full 40 minutes,” Shayok said. “For West Virginia, we had a good, solid first half, but we didn’t play particularly well in the second half. We wanted to play the full 40 minutes today.”