Hoos Torch Yellow Jackets

Joe Harris had 16 points as UVa picked up an ACC road win vs. GT.

Dominant. Offense, defense, scoring, rebounding, shooting. Pick a category. That adjective describes Virginia’s effort across the board against Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Thursday. The No. 15 Cavaliers picked up their first ACC road win of the season to the tune of a 70-38 demolition of the Ramblin’ Wreck at Philips Arena. The Hoos improved to 15-2 and 2-1 in the ACC with the win.

The 32-point spread proved to be the largest margin of victory for UVa at GT since a 37-point win in 1981, 85-48. The Hoos, who have claimed five straight games against the Yellow Jackets, also prevailed by 32 at home in 1984, 91-59.

That’s not all. The 32-point margin of victory is UVa’s largest against an ACC opponent since a 104-72 win against NC State in 1991 and the program’s most lopsided ACC road victory since a 107-74 triumph at Wake Forest in 1983.

“Wow,” Virginia’s Joe Harris said when told of the numerous stats on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “I just felt like we were in a rhythm on both ends and Georgia Tech seemed a little bit off. They looked a little bit better when we were watching them in film. I felt like our defense was there all game and then offensively also I thought we shot the ball pretty well and we executed well.”

“I thought we did a nice job obviously of coming out ready,” Cav coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Offensively, we got a lot of nice looks early and really our offense got us off to a good start and then we started settling in defensively and played a real solid first half. … I just thought the guys were locked in and everybody gave us a lift. Again a road win in the ACC is hard to come by and to win that way, I’m very thankful for it.”

Virginia took control of the game early thanks to a hot start on offense. UVa made 7 of its first 10 shots to take a 14-9 lead just seven minutes into the contest. Of course, that proved to be a theme on the night. The Hoos made 28 of 58 shot attempts (48.3%) in the contest.

The reason for the offensive success? Points in the paint. The Cavaliers consistently found ways to score in the lane and steadily built their lead as a result. In fact, 20 of the team’s first 27 points came inside the paint against the Yellow Jackets; a Joe Harris 3-pointer, a Mike Scott jumper, and an Assane Sene 15-footer to beat the shot clock marked the only outside points in the game’s first 12 minutes. Virginia finished with 30 points in the paint.

Many of those easy buckets came from drives to the basket or offensive rebounds. The Hoos destroyed the Jackets on the glass, 45-22, and produced 15 second chance points.

“The rims here in the NBA arena are a little bit tighter so I kind of made a point to be a little bit more aggressive in the first half,” Harris said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “[The lead] kind of snow-balled in the first half. I looked up and we were up 12 and then I looked up again and we were up 18 at the half. It just kept rolling from there.”

Several players contributed to the 70-point total and lopsided outcome. Harris poured in 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and added 5 rebounds with 3 assists. Sammy Zeglinski chipped in 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist, while Jontel Evans recorded 6 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. Evans and Zeglinski finished 0-14 and were scoreless at Duke last week so Thursday night’s performance was a strong bounce-back effort for the Cavaliers’ starting backcourt.

And, of course, Mike Scott continued his impressive senior season despite starting the game 1 of 6 from the floor. He started to find his rhythm late in the first half and then posted 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Scott added 7 rebounds and 2 assists to the ledger as well.

Virginia’s Mike Scott posted 18 points and 7 rebounds.

“Early, he had some bunnies that he just missed. He was out of sorts and we said keep playing and keep affecting the game with soundness on defense and getting on the glass and we’ll keep getting those open looks for you,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Then I thought he really got into a great rhythm in the second half with some rhythm shots out of the offense, perimeter shots, got to the free throw line, and just made some tough plays as it wore on. I thought he righted the ship offensively for himself as did Sammy.”

While the offense found its rhythm in Atlanta, the Cavaliers’ defense continued its season-long stinginess. GT’s 38 points are the fewest allowed by the Hoos against an ACC opponent since a 61-37 victory against Clemson in 1995. That’s the worst scoring game from the Yellow Jackets since 1982 when they fell 53-38 against Wake Forest in Bobby Cremins’ first season at GT.

The Yellow Jackets joined a crowded list in the “under 60” club for the season, becoming the 15th team in 17 games to fall short of 60 points against the Cavaliers. Georgia Tech is the third team to come up shy of 40 points as well; South Carolina State and Drexel couldn’t hit that mark back in November. UVa held the Ramblin’ Wreck to 29.2% shooting on the night and Kammeon Hosley led the hosts with 12 points as the only player in double figures. The only concern defensively for UVa on the night was when Sene left the game with an injured right ankle late in the first half and did not return.

For the most part, the Yellow Jackets couldn’t find any comfortable looks or easy baskets on the offensive end and their frustration grew throughout the contest. From Virginia’s perspective, that’s the goal night in and night out, home or away.

“They were cold. We did a real solid job defensively, but they were cold so that played into it. They struggled from the free throw line and struggled from the 3-point line,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Our goal is always to make each possession a challenged shot and don’t give them anything that is uncontested. If we can be solid, I’d love to see more of that because that can win you games when your offense is coming and going. That defense will hold you in there. I’ll take it as long as we’re on the other end of that score.”

Final Stats