Mike Scott scored in double figures for the 13th time this season.
This kind of streak feels a lot better.
After snapping an eight-game losing skid on Sunday, the Virginia men’s basketball won its second straight ACC game Wednesday night by topping Virginia Tech 75-61 in front of an enthusiastic 11,174 fans at the John Paul Jones Arena. It’s the first time this season UVa has won back-to-back league games and the 14-point margin of victory represents the fourth largest winning spread of the season by the team.
“This definitely feels good. It’s good for our confidence, for everybody’s confidence. I think this is the team that everybody thought we were going to be this year. I’m just glad it’s happening now,” Virginia guard Jeff Jones said. “The crowd, they don’t know how much energy they give us when they’re out there cheering. It was loud today. It gives us so much energy out there and I think that’s a good thing.”
The Cavaliers took control of the game with a 17-2 run that connected the halves. At the end of the first half, UVa shook off a 29-29 tie with a 10-0 run to take the lead to the locker room. Jamil Tucker , who provided a spark as soon as he checked in to the game, started the burst with a 3-pointer and a 32-29 edge. The run continued until Sylven Landesberg ended the half with a drop-off assist to Tunji Soroye out of a pick-and-roll situation. Soroye provided 6 points by the end of the night to tie his ACC career high; he also blocked his 86th career shot, tying him with Olden Polynice for 10th on Virginia’s all-time list.
The end to the half provided the exact opposite scenario of the game in Blacksburg where the Hokies closed the first half with a key run to lead 40-33. Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said the half-ending surge in Charlottesville left his team in a difficult position the entire second half.
“I think it was huge. We were playing from behind the whole second half,” Greenberg said. “We didn’t get off to a great at the beginning of the second half. … We couldn’t get stops. A.D. [Vassalo] was late getting through a stagger screen and Jones made a shot and they beat us baseline because we didn’t do a good enough job guarding the basketball.”
Sylven Landesberg gave VT’s defense trouble with 19 points and 6 assists.
Indeed, the Cavaliers made sure the visitors’ chore didn’t get any easier by extending the run out of the locker room. As Greenberg noted, Jones provided the lift this time, scoring five points in a 7-2 run that gave UVa a 46-31 edge courtesy of the 17-2 half-connecting surge. He hit a jumper on one play and attacked the basket for a tough reverse lay-up moments later to help add to the lead.
Jones went on from there to finish with 8 points as the Cavs put together another balanced effort on both ends of the floor. Joining Jones with key offensive contributions were four players in double figures. Calvin Baker and Mike Scott both chipped in 10 points, giving Scott his 13th game this season in double figures. Tucker added 13 off the bench, his 11th double figures games of the season.
Leading the way once again though was Landesberg, Virginia’s dynamic freshman. Landesberg poured in 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists while giving Virginia Tech all kinds of problems off the dribble. He has scored in double figures 18 times this season, but a recent move to give him even more ball handling and decision-making duties in the offense has helped the team’s offense even more. In fact, Landesberg’s passing ability is what caught Greenberg’s eye.
“I think that’s the part of his game that’s growing,” VT’s coach said. “He’s so good off the ball screen and changes speed and direction so well that you’ve got to commit and try to string him out a little bit and that opens up passing lanes. They caught some passes around the basket.”
Leitao said the freshman forward has always had the ability to make plays for his teammates but that he is starting to figure out how defenses are playing him and trusting his fellow Hoos.
“His first game here was 28-8-8. He has that in his game,” Leitao said. “I think what’s happened is he’s realized, one, that he’s getting keyed on a whole lot more and, two, he has growing confidence in the people around him that he can make plays and give people the ball and they can finish or make plays from there. It’s well within the realm of his possibility that he can make people better as much as he can score.”
Assane Sene blocks a shot. UVa’s defense held Tech to 36.7% shooting.
While the balanced scoring helped key the offense, the team effort on the defensive end was the story of the game. The Cavaliers pestered both Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney all night long, making sure that neither of the Hokies’ top scoring threats could get easy attempts. Vassallo finished with 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting while Delaney made just 3 of 13 shots; that adds up to 35.6% shooting for the duo.
As a whole, the Hoos limited the visitors to 36.7% shooting on the night. It’s the sixth time this season that UVa has held an opponent to less than 40% shooting from the field, but it represents the first ACC opponent that Virginia kept below that mark. Needless to say, Leitao was pleased with the effort.
“I thought Calvin, Jeff, Sylven, all the perimeter guys did a terrific job on two of their big three guys, especially Delaney,” Leitao said. “I thought we did a good job taking his space his away, specifically Calvin getting through those screens. … I thought for the most part that it looked like a defensive team out there and obviously that’s very, very pleasing for me to see.”
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