What’s wrong with Kyle Guy?
That’s the kind of question you get when you’re a McDonald’s All-American, shooting close to 60% from 3-point range for two months, wear a man bun, and do things like reTweet hater posts on social media. It’s certainly come up a lot on the message boards the past week.
The reason for concern stemmed from a two-game scoring slump. Guy posted 2 points each against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest on a combined 1-of-11 shooting (9.1%). He made 1 of 7 shots at Pitt and missed all 4 attempts against Wake. He didn’t make a 3-pointer in the two games on 5 shots.
Of course, this two-game stretch followed a hot run to end December. Guy scored at least 13 points in four of five games to close last month while shooting 23 of 43 from the field (53.5%) and 12 of 22 from 3-point range (54.5%). That streak included a 14-point afternoon against FSU on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range and 5-of-12 shooting overall. He hit the go-ahead triple in the final 10 seconds of that one too before Dwayne Bacon spoiled the moment.
In other words, when you’re taking mostly jump shots there are going to be some hot and cold spells that come with the territory. A search for answers otherwise – Did his first career start at Pitt throw him off? Did the students’ taunting on the road kill his confidence? Are defenses focusing on him or contesting shots better? – is likely a time killer more than a treasure map.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett surmised as much during Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference.
“He actually got some decent looks quite honestly,” Bennett said. “I mean probably a little more contested, but he got a few good looks certainly against Pitt. There were some pretty darn good size on those perimeter guys against Pitt so decent size closing out a little more, but I thought he got decent looks. Got some good looks [against Wake Forest]. Being a first year going through it, sometimes you have some ups and downs. And shooting, you want to be as consistent as you can, but that’s not always going to be right there so it’s trying to do some of the other things. But I think the looks have been solid.”
Bennett said when those streaks happen, players need to impact the game in other ways. Against Pitt, Guy produced 3 assists in 23 minutes. Against Wake, he had 1 assist and 2 rebounds in 17 minutes. He also combined for 4 turnovers after giving up only 5 total in the previous 13 games.
”So many times a guy like him is defined by if the 3-ball is going in and that’s what I told him – I want you to not be a one trick pony, I want you to be able to do a number of things,” Bennett said. ”That’s part of this growing process and having new guys that are getting significant minutes.”
Wilkins Taking Jumpers
While Guy did not make a 3-pointer against the Demon Deacons, Isaiah Wilkins did. He’s knocked down 4 of 7 attempts from behind the line this season. For the game against Wake, Wilkins made 3 of 3 jumpers to score 7 points. The first pair of shots came on the baseline, while the triple came on the right wing. All three came after Wilkins set a screen and then found some space to shoot the jumper.
“I just kind of read the defense. If I’m separating, I’ll separate to a spot,” Wilkins said. ”I’ve just got to make sure I’m on the same page as the guard and they’ve been finding me, so it’s cool.”
Wilkins has taken 64 shots in 15 games this season. He’s shooting 59.4% from the field. Over the last four outings, he’s taken 15 shots so that fits into his season-long range as well. Still, Wilkins knows that he at least needs to keep defenses honest.
”After the Cal game, I actually sat down with Coach Bennett and have been working on my shot,” Wilkins said. ”I get my shots before the game or after practice and things like that. I have to be able to knock that down or really nobody is guarding me, you know what I’m saying? It’s definitely something I have to keep being consistent with and confident with. If I lose confidence in it, it kind of goes both ways. I’ve just got to keep doing my thing.”
Bennett, meanwhile, said that any scoring from the front court can help this year’s team. Wilkins, Jarred Reuter, Jack Salt, and Mamadi Diakite combine for 22.0 points per game. In the case of Wilkins, Bennett said that rhythm jumpers like the ones against the Deacs are good choices for the junior from Georgia to take.
”If he has a quality look within the offense, then absolutely you’ve got to take a rhythm look and shoot it,” Bennett said. ”He’s not going to be where he’s going to manufacture his own offense a lot. We want him to finish – maybe that’s finishing a rhythm shot when it’s there in the offense or a nice catch and a finish. I tell him if you have a good opportunity and position to make a post move, you should. You have to be willing to do it and feel your game. But Isaiah’s game is his help defense, it’s his hustle, his play on the glass, blocking shots, and then yeah whenever those opportunities are there, then any scoring or any threats we’re getting from the front court is helpful because that’s not a real strong part of our scoring attack.”
Salt With Some Added Pepper
Obviously one of the highlights of Sunday night’s win came when Jack Salt leveled a defender with a screen and then followed Darius Thompson’s shot to the rim. When the ball bounced into the air, Salt rose up and slammed it home with two hands despite the foul. He tacked on the free throw for the 3-point play and Virginia pulled away down the stretch.
The John Paul Jones Arena crowed erupted with the dunk and with good reason. Salt showed off timing and strength with the rim-popping follow. “Adding a little pepper” is how Virginia Sports radio analyst Ted Jeffries called it on air.
Here it is if you want to watch it a bunch of times this week!