After losing at the buzzer Sunday at Villanova, the Virginia basketball team clearly wanted nothing to do with similar dramatics Wednesday night against its in-state rival.
UVA pounced on Virginia Tech early with a 10-0 start and led by double digits for the final 27 minutes of a 71-48 rout. The 23-point win represented the Cavaliers’ largest margin of victory against the Hokies since a 25-point win in 1991 in Richmond, 86-61. It was the Hoos’ largest margin of victory in the series in Charlottesville since a 48-point cruise in 1955, 107-59.
“Now is the time where everyone on our schedule, the ACC, is so competitive,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You have to be ready at home, and I talked about collectively being as competitive at playing to win to the best of our abilities, because if you don’t, you’ll be in trouble. I thought our guys got off to a good start and made some shots. They fell in love with it a little bit and then we started attacking a little more. Every game we play from here on out, they’re highly charged. Sunday’s game was a hard-fought game and a tough loss. We took a lot of good things from it and tried to grow from the areas where we weren’t good, knowing the significance of this game, and I like how we responded.”
The response proved not only swift thanks to the good start, but thorough as well. The Cavaliers won nearly every statistical category on the night, out-shooting (46.3% to 35.7%), out-rebounding (37-22), and out-passing (15 assists to 5) the Hokies for example. The hosts also won steals (5-2), blocked shots (4-2), points in the paint (26-22), points off turnovers (13-8), and second-chance points (18-3) as well.
That last one really stood out from the beginning as well. On just the second possession of the game, Isaiah Wilkins secured an offensive rebound and made the putback with a foul that became a 3-0 lead. Wilkins grabbed another one minutes later that led to a Devon Hall layup that made it 8-0.
By halftime, UVA had as many offensive rebounds as Virginia Tech had on the defensive glass 7-7 and led the rebounding battle 20-8. Of course, the lead had mushroomed to 14 points by then and the Hoos were well on their way to another ACC home win. They’re 38-2 in ACC home games over the last five seasons.
“It started bad and I think whatever it was, 15-5, they had scored on four of them, and then at halftime they had seven offensive rebounds and I don’t know how many they had scored on, but it started bad and it stayed bad relative to keeping them off the offensive glass,” VT coach Buzz Williams said. “They are not going to give up many points in transition because most of their guys get back, so we are giving up offensive rebounds when in essence at the time we have the numbers. We did a really poor job in that regard.”
Wilkins spearheaded that effort as part of a big night overall. He scored a career-high 15 points with 9 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass. The junior started the game 6-of-6 shooting from the floor after going 6-of-6 shooting against Villanova on Sunday. That matched the school record for consecutive made field goals, set by Bobby Stokes in 1977-78. Wilkins has scored in double figures in four of the last five games.
He had stat-stuffing company from two fellow juniors. Hall set a new career-high with 17 points to go with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. That marked the eight time in nine ACC games that Hall’s scored in double figures. Marial Shayok, meanwhile, added 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 steal as well.
Throw in a strong outing from Virginia’s one-two punch at point guard and it was too much for the Hokies to handle. Senior London Perrantes scored 14 points with 3 assists and 0 turnovers, which included a pair of 3-pointers. The two triples give him 187 for his career, surpassing Malcolm Brogdon for seventh place in school history. Freshman Ty Jerome chipped in 7 points with 2 assists and 0 turnovers as well.
Overall, UVA posted 15 assists on 25 made field goals.
”I think we share the ball. I think that’s our strong point,” Wilkins said. ”It’s been so many different guys to lead us in scoring or have great games. … It just really depends on who they key on. Today they were keying on the guards and I was shooting 15-footers by myself.”
Another UVA strong point? The Pack-Line defense, of course. The Hoos held the Hokies to their lowest scoring output of the season at 48 points, a full 14 points shy of the 62 they scored in a one-point win against Georgia Tech. VT made just 27.8% of its shots in the first half as the lead initially grew and had trouble with turnovers for much of the night to finish with 14. Tech’s 21 points in the first half marked the 18th time UVA has limited an opponent to fewer than 30 points in the first half this year.
Outside of a brief 9-of-16 shooting spurt (56.3%) to start the second half when the lead dwindled to 11 points at 52-41, in fact, the visitors just struggled to find much consistency against the Cavalier defense. And, of course, the Hoos answered that brief surge with a 17-2 run. That included allowing only one more field goal in the final 8:44, a layup and steal by Seth Allen with 24 seconds to go. Allen led VT with 14 points, while Zach LeDay added 12. Chris Clarke had 5 points and 7 rebounds.
“They are an effective offensive team, especially in transition, so it always starts there,” Bennett said. “They did miss a lot of shots. They had a few open ones and they did not look like they were on tonight. So, that helped us, but I don’t want to take away from our guys working and trying to bother shots and not giving them a lot of easy looks. We had a few breakdowns but we tried our best to not let them get going in transition because they’re dangerous. Especially when Chris Clarke gets the ball as the four-man and pushes and they put a lot of pressure on you.”