UVa’s Evan Nolte poured in a career-high 18 points.
The Virginia men’s basketball team struggled in its first two ACC road games, committing a combined 29 turnovers while making just 8 total 3-pointers in losses at Wake Forest and Clemson. The Hoos reversed both of those trends when they traveled to Blacksburg on Thursday night and it paid off. UVa made a season-high 11 triples and recorded just 6 turnovers en route to a 74-58 victory against rival Virginia Tech.
The 16-point win is the largest margin of victory against Tech since a 64-48 triumph on Nov. 24, 2000.
“It’s a great sound to hear silence on the road, but at your rivals’ place it’s better,” true freshman Evan Nolte said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “First time playing Virginia Tech – we played well.”
Nolte and Joe Harris led the long-range barrage for the Wahoos (13-5, 3-2 ACC) by posting 9-of-15 shooting from beyond the arc. Nolte set a new career-high with 18 points, which included 5 of 9 treys. He also added 4 steals, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocked shots.
Harris, meanwhile, made 4 of 6 shots from downtown and finished with 17 points, the 16th time this season he’s landed in double figures. Harris has had at least 17 points in all three of UVa’s ACC wins. He averages a healthy 16 points per game in league play to date.
“We changed our offense up. We tweaked it a little bit a couple of games ago running more of a four-out deal, but I think for the most part we got open looks,” Nolte said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “We got open looks setting good screens. We got the open man the ball and we shot it with confidence.”
The strong outside shooting proved to be just part of the equation, though. Virginia’s offense as a whole proved efficient and wrapped with good decision-making. On the night, UVa made 26 of 51 shots from the floor (51.0%) and the visitors piled up 21 assists on those 26 field goals. The Cavaliers fell just one short of their season high of 22 assists that came against Wofford.
That led to plenty of help for Nolte and Harris as four players hit double figures for the night. Freshman Justin Anderson recorded 11 points, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds in 24 minutes, while freshman Mike Tobey added 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 assist. Tobey went 5 of 5 from the floor.
“I thought we got real good rhythm looks. We were more unselfish moving the ball. Their defense was more of a sagging contain defense. They jammed the lane with guys, Jontel’s guy, and different guys. We just got some good looks,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “I think guys made the extra pass. They had a servant’s mentality. We talk about serving your teammates. They even did some things in our motion offense, just sort of the more they played it, they got a bead on what would work and that was nice to see.”
Virginia also held another ACC opponent to less than 60 points; the Hoos have not allowed any league foe to reach that benchmark 5 games into the conference schedule. VT’s 58 points came mostly on the strength of dynamic scorer Erick Green , who poured in a career-high 35 points. The Cavaliers threw multiple defenders at Green throughout the night, but he still figured out a way to put up some points as he made 11 of 18 shots and 10 of 13 free throws.
UVa’s Justin Anderson registered 6 assists.
The difference came in the supporting cast. The rest of the Hokies (11-7, 2-3 ACC) combined for 8-of-25 shooting (32.0%). Only Jarrell Eddie came close to double figures with 9. VT had just 6 assists with 14 turnovers.
After allowing 51.5% shooting in a road loss at Clemson, the Hoos have bounced back with two solid efforts on defense. Florida State made just 37.2% of its shots, while the Hokies converted 44.2% of their attempts.
“I thought it was OK. I thought Jontel worked [Green], but a couple of times he could just rise up over Jontel. Jontel was a little tired. He’s still not quite to where he was,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Again, some breakdowns late with some transition buckets or when they had to score quick, but otherwise I thought they had to earn the majority of their looks, Green included.”
UVa now must deal with a tough scheduling quirk. The Hoos host Boston College on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Come ready. That’s the way it is and you’re playing a team that runs some Princeton stuff. They shoot a lot of 3’s,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Every game, they could have won. BC. They play four guards and stretch it. It’ll just be who we are. We don’t change a whole lot, but [focus on] being as good as we can be.”