Virginia basketball point guard Ty Jerome had a difficult five-game stretch from November 24 through December 16, when he averaged 4.8 points per game, shot only 30.7% from the field including 2-of-10 from 3-point range, and dished out 10 assists while turning the ball over nine times. Only five assists and all nine turnovers came against Rhode Island (Nov. 24), Wisconsin (Nov. 27) and West Virginia (Dec. 5), and two late turnovers in Morgantown helped the Mountaineers hand Virginia its only loss of the season.
Head coach Tony Bennett’s support of the 6’5” sophomore never wavered. Bennett touched on this following Virginia’s one-point win over Boston College on December 30.
“I know everybody, at West Virginia, got a little uptight about it, but one of the turnovers [Jerome] had late in the game was not his fault,” Bennett said. “We didn’t execute the play. We were in the wrong spot and a trap was run at him. He did some good things in that game. I sat down with him, showed him film and said, ‘You’re fine.’ He can play. I hope he’s getting healthier, he looked like he is. He’s been battling some stuff but coming right. And he just works, just like Devon Hall works, just like Kyle Guy works, just like all these guys do.”
Jerome, who had a foot injury in the preseason but has not missed any regular season games, fought through his struggles and has averaged 15.8 points, 3.6 assists and 1.6 turnovers per game in the five games since Davidson. He scored 17 points in 19 minutes in a 31-point win over Savannah State, had 10 points in an 82-48 win over Hampton, carried Virginia against BC with 31 points, and totaled 13 points, five assists and zero turnovers against Virginia Tech. Against North Carolina, Jerome scored eight points (five of his team’s final 14 points), dished out five assists and committed two turnovers in the Cavaliers’ 61-49 win.
Jerome fielded questions regarding the state of his confidence and has been steadfast in saying his confidence doesn’t waver. After UNC, I asked the New Rochelle (N.Y.) native how much Bennett’s support helped.
“Like I say every single day, my confidence is not going to change, but when your coach, you know, when the media is down on you and all of social media is down on you, and your coach is standing there and he always has your back, that’s huge,” Jerome said. “That means a lot to me. It makes me feel real comfortable here.”
“You just keep going every day,” Jerome added. “After the Davidson game I think it was, I was realizing, I had some conversations with some people, I wasn’t impacting the game enough. Whether I was scoring, passing … I wasn’t being aggressive enough. I knew that was going to hurt the team when we got to ACC play, so I knew I had to come out and start being more aggressive. It started against Savannah State, and I’m going to keep doing it.”
Hunter Could Be Virginia’s X-Factor
Like Jerome, redshirt freshman De’Andre Hunter has been upping his game of late. Hunter’s 10-point, 7-rebound performance against UNC comes on the heels of a 14-point outing in a blowout win at Virginia Tech on January 3.
Blending size, length, quickness and athleticism, and inside/outside scoring ability, the 6’7” Hunter not only helps Virginia counter defensively against smaller, quicker teams, but he creates mismatches on the offensive end.
“Great flexibility ‘cause he can separate on offense,” Jerome said of Hunter, who he has called his best friend on the team. “The floor is more spread. When I get into the paint a few times, I’m kicking it to him and that just spreads the floor for us. When teams collapse the paint, now we’ve got three guys around that can shoot … I’m in the paint and someone’s in the block, too. So, it spreads the floor for us offensively. He’s another guy who can create his own shot. He’s rebounding, too, so we don’t lose in that area. And then defensively he can switch 1 through 4 ball screens. He just makes us more versatile.”
Guy Contributing In More Ways Than One
Sophomore guard Kyle Guy was only 2-of-10 from the field, including 1-of-6 from 3, in Saturday’s win over the Tar Heels. Guy has become more than just a scorer for Virginia, though, and his effort in other areas against UNC stood out to me, particularly down the stretch.
With Virginia up 56-48, Guy received a pass from Devon Hall a few feet behind the free throw line. He rose, turned and fired off a pass to Isaiah Wilkins for an easy dunk, giving Virginia a 10-point advantage. Guy guarded Joel Berry II on UNC’s next possession. The All-American point guard missed badly on his shot attempt, and Guy was right there, battling with Theo Pinson for the rebound. With his momentum carrying him out-of-bounds, Guy tossed the ball off Pinson. Virginia ball. The Hoos capitalized with a Jerome 3 to go up 61-48 with 4:58 remaining.
Other notable plays from Guy include good defense against Jalek Felton with 2:30 left in the game. It appeared as though Guy blocked Felton’s jump-shot before grabbing the rebound. However, he was only credited with a defensive board. Guy played good on-ball defense against Berry in the first half as well, forcing Berry to dribble the ball off his own foot.
Great effort from the 2016 McDonald’s All-American on both ends of the court, and he is contributing in other ways than just putting the ball in the basket.
Hoos Crack The Top 5 In National Rankings
The newest AP Top 25 was released on January 8. Virginia is No. 3 in the nation, up five spots from last week. Villanova, who UVA faced in a preseason scrimmage, is No. 1, while West Virginia, who bested the Cavaliers earlier this season, is No. 2. Michigan State (No. 4) and Wichita State (No. 5) round out the latest AP Top 25.
Two Top Recruits Attended UNC Game
A top high school sophomore reportedly made his way to Charlottesville on Saturday. Norfolk Academy (Norfolk, VA) post Mark Williams, a 6’10”, 200-pound prospect, has received early scholarship offers from the Cavaliers as well as Clemson, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, VCU and Virginia Tech.
Abington (PA) junior power forward Eric Dixon was expected to be in John Paul Jones Arena to see Virginia’s 61-49 win over the Tar Heels. The 6’7”, 250-pound prospect received a scholarship from Coach Bennett this past summer. Villanova, Georgetown, Miami, Penn State, Rutgers, Seton Hall, Temple are among the other schools that have offered as well.
Villanova could prove tough to beat ultimately, but right now we’re hearing Virginia is one of the schools high on Dixon’s list.