All Eyes on Jerome as Duke Rematch Approaches

Ty Jerome gets a step on FSU’s M.J. Walker last month. | Photo by John Markon

By Jerry Ratcliffe

For anyone following the buildup to Saturday’s Virginia vs. Duke rematch in Charlottesville, all eyes are on Ty Jerome.

UVA’s junior point guard tweaked his back in the Cavaliers’ win at NC State a week ago and did not play in last Saturday’s home victory over Miami. It was the first game in Jerome’s career — 88 games — that he had missed.

During Monday’s ACC coaches teleconference, Virginia coach Tony Bennett couldn’t shine much light on Jerome’s status for the Duke game.

“Not so much yet,” Bennett said. “We decided to take off Sunday and Monday to let all the guys recover.

“Ty, I think, is improving,” Bennett continued. “He had a sprained back. I think it’s going in the right direction, but we’ll have to see when we get on the floor [for Tuesday’s practice] and see how he’s doing.”

In the previous meeting against Duke, a 72-70 Blue Devils win, it was another point guard who was missing in action: Duke freshman Tre Jones. He had banged up his shoulder in a home loss to Syracuse and was ruled out “indefinitely.” However, the talented guard bounced back sooner than expected and is back in Duke’s lineup.

In the UVA game in Durham, Mike Krzyzewski decided to put a larger guard on Jerome. However, in this week’s rematch, Jones is likely to be matched up against the Cavaliers’ guard (assuming Jerome is healthy) with the idea being that Jones’ on-ball pressure will make it difficult for Jerome to move comfortably and possibly wear him down.

“[Jones] is a terrific player,” Bennett said Monday. “He’s complete offensively and defensively. You can watch all the film you want, and it helps, but [determining] the size of a guy, how quick he is, that stuff is much more accurate in the flesh.”

So, the Cavaliers will be getting their first look of Jones in real time. One thing they know for sure though, is that the Duke guard is a tough opponent.

Krzyzewski affirmed that thought during his portion of the teleconference. Asked about when he realized just how tough Jones was, the Duke coach didn’t hesitate.

“Since he was in about seventh or eighth grade when we starting recruiting Tre,” Coach K said. “That’s just part of their family. They show up for work, every day. There’s no sick days for the Jones family. It’s just what they do.”

Jones, who entered last weekend ranked third in the ACC (conference games only) in assists (5.50) and tied for fourth in steals (2.0 per game), is considered one of the most lethal threats from a defensive standpoint. Jones forces turnovers that lead to easy transition baskets for him and his teammates.

Virginia, which was ranked No. 1 nationally in fewest turnovers averaged per game entering last week, committed a total of 30 turnovers in the two games against State and Miami.

Krzyzewski will be counting on Jones to continue that trend vs. the Cavaliers.

“He is such a key guy for us,” Krzyzewski said. “Not just on-ball pressure. He’s a heck of a defender. He has also valued the ball on offense and gets us in the right sets to attack the defenses we face.

“[Jones] keeps getting better and he should,” Coach K said. “He’s a young guy. You’re going to get better when you play good competition. You’re playing against the best players in the country, so you have to be at your best. That’s why guys come here and come to our league. That competition develops your talent and brings out the best in you.”


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