Sophomore guard Kyle Guy scored 29 points — including 8 in the game’s final three minutes — as Virginia basketball fended off a resilient VCU squad for a 76-67 victory in front of a sold-out Siegel Center in Richmond, Virginia.
The Cavaliers trailed only once, falling behind 2-0 on Khris Lane’s made layup 19 seconds in. Guy responded with jumper to tie before a Devon Hall 3 gave the Hoos a lead they would not relinquish. Virginia extended its lead to double-digits on four separate occasions, ultimately fending off the home team and improving to 3-0 this season.
“It was a crazy environment and I’m really proud of the way our team responded,” Guy said. “We were hitting some shots early. They were hitting some shots, too, so it was great to get our offense going.”
Despite the visitors out in front for most of the game, VCU kept fighting back. Fueled by a 10-2 run, the Rams narrowed UVA’s lead to 59-57 with 8:08 remaining. The Cavaliers extended the lead back out to six before a De’Riante Jenkins 3-point play made it a one-possession game (63-60) at the 5:01 mark.
Guy’s 8 points, a clutch 3 from sophomore point guard Ty Jerome, and an Isaiah Wilkins dunk spurred Virginia to a 13-7 run in the final five minutes, quieting a Siegel Center crowd that had been loud throughout and raucous when the Rams made their 2nd Half run.
“All summer and all fall and all the work we put in, it’s for game’s like this,” Jerome said. “Every athlete wants to be in a game like this, an atmosphere like this. We like when the student section’s going crazy. It’s definitely tough. They have a great home court advantage, but I think we feed off that, too.”
“Playing basketball’s fun, especially in the environment like this,” Guy said. “It was amazing. The fans were great. It was just nice to shut ‘em up a little bit.”
Virginia was excellent in the face of VCU’s full-court pressure defense, turning the ball over only five times. Conversely, the Cavalier defense forced 12 Ram turnovers. Fast break points swung heavily in favor of the Cavaliers, who Hoos outscored VCU 18-0 in that category. Graduate transfer Nigel Johnson, who finished with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal, helped create some of those fastbreak opportunities for the Cavaliers.
Virginia scored 32 points in the paint while also connecting on 10-of-23 from 3-point range. Guy and Jerome made 8 of those 3-pointers in 15 tries. Jerome was the only other Cavalier to score in double-digits scoring-wise, finishing with 13 points. The New Rochelle (N.Y.) native led Virginia with 7 assists and had 0 turnovers.
Isaiah Wilkins turned in his usual quality all-around performance, scoring 8 points and pulling down 8 boards (3 offensive) in 32 minutes of action. He helped limit Rams senior forward Justin Tillman to 4 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Tillman entered the game averaging 20.5 points per contest.
Hall finished with 8 points (3-10 shooting), 3 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 turnover. He drew the assignment of Rams senior leader guard Jonathan Williams for a significant part of the second half and played well, despite the fact that Williams finished with 14 points. Virginia posts Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite contributed 4 points apiece but combined for only six rebounds, while redshirt freshmen De’Andre Hunter and Jay Huff added 2 points apiece.
VCU did a lot of damage to UVA on the interior, scoring 30 points in the paint. Issac Vann hurt the Cavaliers on the perimeter, scoring 19 points and making three 3-pointers in four attempts. The Rams bench outscored Virginia’s, 26-14.
Guy was the star of the night, showing why earned McDonald’s All-American honors in high school. Just as important as the 29 points was the manner and times in which he scored them, a good sign for Virginia should this continue.
“I thought Isaiah was terrific. Stats kind of show it, but the plays he made … he’s been in a lot of these games as a senior,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “Devon’s been in a lot of these games. Jack’s a junior, but Kyle, Ty, really the rest of the guys, it’s a bit new to have that kind of role in this setting, and I thought [Kyle has] grown. He’s physically stronger. He’s added some weight. He played a lot of minutes, took care of the ball.
“Kyle, besides getting the foul at the end, he was pretty darn good,” Bennett continued. “I think he’s just matured. I thought we couldn’t get separation. Every time he would score, then they would come down and a big bucket. It was kind of a back-and-forth exchange. We couldn’t keep Jonathan Williams out of the paint, and they were getting offensive rebounds, so there are some things we can work on. What a terrific atmosphere and Kyle seemed to respond pretty well.”
Guy emerged in key situations, and here is a sampling of those plays …
5:51 in the 1st Half
A red-hot Isaac Vann stroked a 3 to get VCU within five points. Guy hit a jumper on UVA’s next possession and followed that up with a steal, setting up Nigel Johnson with an easy layup. The 4-point run extended UVA’s lead to 34-25.
The beginning of the 2nd Half
Guy opened the scoring with a jumper to extend Virginia’s 6-point halftime lead to eight.
14:32 in the 2nd Half
Guy scored on a layup in transition and then got a steal-and-score to boost Virginia’s lead to 50-40.
9:16 in the 2nd Half
A pair of Jonathan Williams free throws inched VCU to within five points. Guy responded with a layup.
2:47 in the 2nd Half
VCU had been within three points (63-60) since the 5:01 mark before Guy dropped in a 3 off an assist from Jerome. Guy missed a 3-pointer earlier in the possession, but a key offensive board by Isaiah Wilkins kept possession with the Cavaliers. Guy wouldn’t miss the second time around.
VCU’s Vann hit a 2 on the Rams’ next possession, cutting the lead back to 4 before Guy got to the free throw line on a driving layup. He sank both free throws to extend UVA’s lead to 68-62.
0:41 in the 2nd Half
Guy’s final points of the game — a 3-pointer — put the Hoos up 74-67 (check out the play below). A Virginia defensive stop and Wilkins dunk finished off the victory for the visitors.
“We knew the ball was going to me, in that corner,” Guy said. “We waited ‘til pretty late in the shot clock, so I’m glad the pump-fake didn’t take too long. I had been pump-faking all night because I thought they were going to close out a little harder than they did, so I pumped-faked, got him in the air, and it’s just a familiar thing for me.”
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) November 17, 2017
Guy, who averaged 15 points per game in Virginia’s previous two games, has helped the Cavaliers to a 3-0 start to the season. He and the rest of his teammates face a quick turnaround against a good team, hosting 2-1 Monmouth at John Paul Jones Arena at 1 p.m. on November 19. The Cavaliers then take on Vanderbilt on November 23 in Brooklyn, New York. Both of those games are part of the NIT Season Tip-Off.