Virginia starting guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy are no strangers to road games with challenging trips to places like Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Carrier Dome, and the Yum! Center as examples of places they’ve played. So with Wednesday night’s trip to the Colonial Life Arena up next on the schedule, the dynamic duo had plenty of experience to rely on in a matchup with South Carolina.
With SEC Network analyst Jon Sundvold noting how under control the guards played, the Hoos snared a 69-52 win on the heels of UVA’s annual exam break. Virginia has won 11 straight true road games.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” Bennett said. “Not at this level. There’s certain first years or freshman that are incredible and we play against those guyss, but that’s our formula at Virginia, to try to grow guys up, get them into their upperclassman years or get them a lot of experience. It’s proven well for us. I think you just see it in those settings. You’re on the road, you don’t get rattled if a team makes a run, you’re not afraid to take the big shots, you can handle when the coach loses his mind when he gets after you sometimes in the huddles. They’ve seen a lot. … Experience is golden.”
The experienced Cavaliers’ comfort level showed. Jerome and Guy took turns knocking down shots as they combined for 43 points that nearly matched the Gamecocks’ total for the night. Jerome led all scorers with a season-high 25 points, which included a trio of 3-pointers.
Jerome jump-started things with a personal surge in the first half. He rattled off 13 points in a row about halfway through the first 20 minutes. That little scoring burst began with a pair of free throws at the 12:49 mark and was followed by three layups over the next three minutes. A 3-pointer and two more free throws wrapped up that stretch and the visitors’ lead grew to 22-12 in the process.
Guy, meanwhile, poured in 18 points behind five triples of his own. While his backcourt running mate made some big shots in the first half, Guy did the same in the second half. His first 3-pointer after intermission pushed the lead to double digits again at 45-33. Virginia’s lead grew to 17 points before a Carolina surge trimmed that back to 10 with 8:55 to go, but that’s when Guy hit another jumper to prevent a true rally. He repeated that response when the lead dropped to 11 points in the final six minutes, canning two 3-pointers – including a free throw for a four-point play on the second one – to keep his team well ahead.
The experience showed in the post too where junior Mamadi Diakite chipped in 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while Jack Salt added 4 points and a season-high 9 rebounds. Salt also helped challenge South Carolina’s Chris Silva, who was the focal point of the hosts’ efforts with some key players missing from the lineup. Silva made just 4 of 12 shots to get to 11 points.
“They are as good of a team as I’ve coached against when they’re on offense – they just kind of wait until one guy makes a mistake and as soon as that guy makes a mistake, they attack you,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “It’s as good in my 11 or 12 years as a head coach as good a team that I’ve coached against – they’re in no rush. Credit to Tony and his guys.”
With Jerome, Guy, and Diakite doing the heavy lifting in the scoring column as starters, that helped cover for the second straight game where De’Andre Hunter struggled to find his touch. He made 2 of 10 shots and ended up with 5 points. The Hoos also got 5 points from Braxton Key off the bench, while Kihei Clark chipped in 2 points and 2 assists while playing with a cast just more than a week after wrist surgery.
As a team, UVA shot 44.1% overall but that number took on two different looks before and after the half. The Hoos made 12 of 31 shots in the first half to shoot 38.71%, but then got on track to make 14 of 28 shots after the half for 50.0% shooting. South Carolina, on the other hand, was stuck in the 30’s throughout and hit 20 of 55 shots for 36.4% overall. The Gamecocks’ best offense came on the offensive glass where they grabbed 12 boards and turned it into 14 points.
That area is something that Bennett said remains a work in progress for this team with William & Mary up next.
“At times, we didn’t rebound well,” Bennett said. “We worked hard in this break period and [were] physical, working on our rebounding because we knew how they would be. They didn’t have one of their key guys who really can rebound and is good. That’s something we’ll continue to address. … That’ll get you beat if you’re not right and second chance points are big so we’ll go to work on it.”