The new No.1 Virginia basketball team kept all their past memories at the Watsco Center to the side, as they played a hard fought game to beat Miami 59-50. It was imperative to brush off their upset loss to Virginia Tech at home. Virginia’s head coach Tony Bennett fixed the little things, telling his team to improve their shot selection and tighten up defensively. Virginia followed these instructions perfectly, going back to their methodical and efficient offense alongside a stifling defense. They led for the entire game, but Miami made sure they were in striking distance, keeping the deficit under double digits for most of the game.
Virginia knew that every team was coming for them and trying to discard them of their top ranking.
“We’re going to have a target on our back and we’re just going to have to keep fighting through every game and hopefully come out with a lot of wins,” said redshirt forward De’Andre Hunter. Hunter was Virginia’s leading scorer of the night, scoring 22 points on 50% shooting on the floor and from three-point range. He pulled out a hat-trick of moves, driving into the lane, hitting elbow jumpers, and knocking down three-pointers. Towards the end of the game, Hunter transformed into Blake Griffin, dunking with authority over a helpless a Miami defender. Check it out at the 4:36 mark.
He was also a defensive stalwart, providing the versatility needed to defend ball screens and prevent dribble penetration from the speedy Miami guards. Overall, Virginia’s defense put Miami in a strangle-hold offensively, limiting them to a paltry 38.3% shooting and 28.6% from behind the arc. Defenders were exerting much more pressure on ball screens, utilizing active hands and having help behind at all times.
Another key player for Virginia was sophomore guard Kyle Guy, who scored 13 points on 56% shooting and 40% from three-point land. This was a vast improvement from last game, as he shot uncomfortably and had poor shot selection. Against Miami, he was getting open without the basketball, knocking down catch-and-shoot opportunities with ease. His ability to read defenses and determine whether defenders are overplaying or cheating screens has helped tremendously with his spacing to put up a shot.
With the win over Miami, Virginia has officially eliminated Miami, Florida State, Louisville, and defending National Champions UNC from ACC title contention. The only remaining teams are Clemson and Duke.
Virginia’s next game is on 2/21 at John Paul Jones Arena against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the third-worst team in the ACC. This week of rest will give them plenty of time to recoup and help alleviate any nagging injuries for the rest of the season.