Seven Virginia basketball players logged at least 17 minutes Wednesday and all of them posted at least 7 points. That’s the kind of night it was for Georgia Tech at the John Paul Jones Arena. The Yellow Jackets couldn’t keep up with that balanced attack on the scoreboard and the Hoos rolled to an 81-51 victory.
The Cavaliers improved to 25-2 overall and 13-2 in the ACC. It’s the fifth time in the Tony Bennett’s 10 years that his team reached the 25-win barrier. It’s also the fifth time in the last six seasons that UVA has won at least 13 conference games. The Hoos also clinched a double bye in the ACC Tournament next month.
“We played solid tonight. We did what we had to do,” Bennett said. “And I thought the group at the end did a nice job. I was glad to get [Kody Stattmann] in there, see [Marco Anthony] get a nice dunk and [Francesco Badocchi]. To have the game in a spot where you could balance the minutes and get different looks at guys and lower that minute count, that’s always a positive. Sometimes in this league you don’t have that opportunity, but we played well enough to be able to get everybody and opportunity, which I think is important.”
Kyle Guy ended up as the only Cavalier to play more than 30 minutes as he logged 31. De’Andre Hunter played 28, while Ty Jerome and Kihei Clark each recorded 26 minutes. Mamadi Diakite (22), Braxton Key (21) , and Jay Huff (17) all picked up at least 15 minutes too. Georgia Tech, which boasts a top 25 ranking in defensive efficiency, had trouble with all of them at different times.
Jerome and Hunter caused the most problems as both players found cracks when GT used its matchup zone defense initially or when it switched to man defense along the way. Jerome led all scorers with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while also dishing out 4 assists. He had 5 rebounds too. Hunter, meanwhile, tallied 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go with 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Jerome repeatedly sliced into the lane against the Jackets’ defense, while Hunter really shredded things in the first half while operating in and out of the high post.
Guy followed that duo with 11 points of his own, while Clark, Key, and Huff chipped in 8 points each. Clark and Key hit two 3-pointers each, while Huff dunked his way there. Clark also tied a career-high with 6 assists, while Key snared 6 rebounds. Diakite rounded out the balanced effort with 7 points, a career-high 8 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. That last part of the box score extended Diakite’s blocked shot streak to 20 games.
“They played a zone,” Jerome said. “They played it early in the first half on us and Dre did a good job of making shots early, attacking from the high post then we did a great job of sneaking behind the zone and getting to the corners for dribble penetration. Our coaches prepared us really well for it and we attacked it well.”
“We just wanted to get the ball into the middle and attack from there,” Hunter said. “Usually there was one guy guarding two or three people so it was easy to hand it off to other guys and get points in the paint.”
Virginia certainly got the ball into the interior regardless of which defense Tech put on the table. The Cavaliers dominated points in the paint, 42-26, and then balanced it out with 9-of-17 shooting from 3-point range (52.9%).
Of course, UVA’s defense helped create an advantage beyond just paint points and that’s why the final margin ended up so lopsided. The hosts held the Yellow Jackets to 21-of-56 shooting (37.5%) overall and 5-of-17 shooting from 3-point range (29.4%). Georgia Tech had just 7 assists, 2 second chance points, and made 4 of 7 free throws. In other words, easy points were scarce.
Jose Alvarado led his team with 12 points and 4 assists. James Banks III added 11 points and 7 rebounds, while Michael Devoie posted 10 points.
The dismantling of his team left GT coach Josh Pastner impressed with the Hoos.
“I have to give Virginia credit. They’re a very, very good team,” Pastner said. “Their team is good enough to win the National Championship and I think they have multiple pros on their team – first round draft picks. They’re just really, really good. In this league, to win at that level that they’re winning, you have to have draft picks. You have to have at least one, maybe two, and they have them. They have multiple guys that are NBA guys, so that’s another reason why they’re so good.”