Cavs Hold off ACC’s Leading Scorer to Best Hokies
In what ESPN deemed “Rivalry Week,” Virginia vanquished in-state foe Virginia Tech for the second time this season.
This was the Cavaliers’ third win in a span of six days, over which they averaged 77 points. The 73-55 win increased their school-best winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 14. Virginia’s record also improved to 18-6 (8-3), while Virginia Tech’s fell to 11-13 (2-9).
Within the first four minutes of the game, junior guard Joe Harris made three consecutive three-pointers, and by the end of the game he had recorded a career-high 26 points.
Head coach Tony Bennett was not only pleased by the team’s general performance but also by Harris’s footwork and aggressive start to the game.
“[Harris’s] start at least kept us in the game. It was very impressive how he was moving and shooting,” he said. He also commented on Harris’s general performance from the arc. “He shot it really well the last few games and it’s not because people are trying to guard him hard. He has the ability to really move without the ball but he’s added the threat of if you come up tight, you can get by,” Bennett added.
Harris is currently ranked No.1 for three-point field goal percentage in the ACC.
The Cavalier defense, ranked first in scoring for the ACC, was able to shut out Hokies’ senior guard Erick Green for most of the first half, but he bounced into action after halftime and scored 21 of his 22 team-leading points.
At the start of the second half, Green took control of the ball and made 11 consecutive points within a span of one minute and 12 seconds. This included three shots from the arc and two free throws to get his team nine points. Green currently leads the ACC in scoring, making an average of 25.2 points per game.
Junior forward Akil Mitchell and senior guard Evans both performed well on the boards, making eight and seven rebounds respectively. Evans added six assists and eight points, while Mitchell recorded 17 points in his 34 minutes on the court. Mitchell’s dunk at 5:51 made the score 67-47 and created excitement among the Virginia fans.
Green and redshirt junior forward Cadarian Raines led the Hokies in rebounds, with a total of 13 between the two of them. Green was the only double-digit scorer on his team.
Virginia Tech managed to make 13 bench points and some free throws during the first half but they were still not able to get the points they needed to overtake the Cavaliers. However, Virginia’s coach and players did not think their defense was perfect in the first half.
“We didn’t play as well as we would have liked defensively in the first half,” Harris said. “We felt like we kind of gave up way too many uncontested shots. It seemed like most of their baskets came off of just room and rhythm looks or just easy put-backs,” he added.
Joe Harris first tied his career-high, previously set at Minnesota in 2010, when he went 2-for-2 at the line with seven minutes remaining in the second half. Then, at 2:43 he added two points off of free throws to make his new career-high 26 points, not to mention his 100 percent performance at the line, making 7-of-7 attempts.
Freshmen Anderson, Nolte and Jones also made 100 percent of their free throws and added a total of 15 points to the game.
Sophomore Paul Jesperson made two blocks and 2-of-3 three-pointers. He stepped up in attempt to remove the pressure on Harris from the opposing team.
“I have to be more aggressive because I feel like it’s going to take some pressure off of Joe [and] give him more looks and it’s going to make our team much more deep and much more dangerous,” he said.
The Cavaliers will take on UNC and Miami on the road before they return home to play two other ACC rivals, Georgia Tech and Duke. How will the team prepare for the road? “”Same thing we’ve been doing. We just gotta take that intensity on the road,” Mitchell said. “We struggled on the road so we have to make sure we keep moving the ball and set our defense.”
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