Minor shuts down BC big man in crucial stretch for Virginia win

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: Craig Hunter Ross/ACC

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When Tony Bennett decided to ride with Jordan Minor down the home stretch of Thursday night’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal battle with Boston College, Minor’s mission was as simple as cornbread.

Stop Quinten Post. Go, sic ‘em like a bulldog on a ham sandwich.

Easier said than done. We’re talking about guarding a dude who held a notable difference in size, Minor being 6-foot-8 compared to Post, a 7-footer with mobility and an outside shooting touch to die for. We’re talking about Minor being assigned to shut down a guy who was on a memorable roll.

Post put up 60-plus points and 30-plus rebounds in three tournament games this week, becoming only the third player to post — pun intended — those kinds of numbers in the ACC’s version of Russian Roulette in the past 10 years (Jayson Tatum and Zion Williamson were the other two).

Ryan Dunn had his shot at containing Post. So did freshman Blake Buchanan, who didn’t have the bulk or experience to handle the Boston College big man.

It was Post’s drive and baby hook over Buchanan that gave the Eagles a 55-53 lead over Virginia with 5:20 to go in regulation that prompted Bennett to make one more switch, reinserting Minor back into the game as a last-ditch effort to quiet Post.

Minor was magnificent on that end of the floor. He locked down Post the rest of regulation and the entire five-minute overtime, as Virginia pulled out a 66-60 win over BC.

He blocked a Post shot with 1:20 to go in regulation, a key play in the waning moments that helped the Cavaliers reach the ACC Tournament semifinals for the eighth time in the past 10 years (UVA will face NC State tonight at 9:30). Minor unleashed a primal scream after swatting Post’s shot in a rare show of emotion.

It was a big deal to him to get a second chance at quieting Post in crunch time and help Virginia survive and advance.

“I was just being ready for my team,” Minor said. “My number’s called, so just being able to be ready for them and do all that I can for us to come out with a W and advance. That was my mindset going in, and I was just excited to be able to do that for my team. It’s been a year where you’ve had to be patient and earn your spot.”

Much of the fan base had given up on Minor early on when his playing time diminished. Some felt he was a step or two slow, that he wasn’t ready for ACC-caliber basketball after having transferred from mid-major Merrimack.

Most didn’t recognize that he required time to somewhat master Bennett’s intricate, intense ‘Pack-Line’ defense, in-your-face, man-to-man, after having played nothing but zone his entire career at Merrimack.

On Thursday night, he showed the world just how far his defense has advanced, as he handcuffed Post in the post.

“Jordan Minor’s defense down the stretch … it was a little bit of every man on deck, when they were called upon just had to do it,” Bennett said. “Ryan [Dunn] fought his heart out to guard Post. Obviously we had Blake doing it, Jordan early, and then I went back to him and he did a great job.”

Up until Minor got his second chance at the BC big man, Post had terrorized the Cavaliers with 23 points — almost scoring at will on 9 of 20 field-goal attempts — and 13 rebounds in 41 minutes and 56 seconds. Post did all his damage in the first 31 minutes, because Minor pitched a shutout against him the final 10 minutes, 20 seconds.

“[Minor] did a great job on me, especially at the end,” Post confessed. “I think I played 41 minutes and at the end I was feeling it a lot in my legs, and Jordan came in fresh and I think he did a really good job on me. He made it hard for me.”

That’s exactly what Minor planned, also aware it was Post’s third game in as many days.

“I was just trying to make him earn everything that he got,” Minor said in the Virginia locker room after the game. “I know that he was kind of the engine for them. He gets them going. I just wanted to make it tough on him and just hunker down and get as many stops as I could.”

Minor had faced Post only a couple of weeks ago in Boston, and so he knew how physical the 7-footer could be.

He also knew Post’s tendencies, that he liked to seal and to get early post touches. Minor’s mission was to push Post out as far as he could, away from his favorite scoring spots on the floor.

“I’m a great defensive player, so I just wanted to get as many stops as I could,” Minor said.

When BC tied the game at the end of regulation and the Cavaliers knew they were headed to overtime, with perhaps their entire season on the line, a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line, there was no panic in the huddle. Rather, there was unity, a bond that helped lift them to their 23rd win of the season and likely secured a trip to the NCAA, where senior Reece Beekman has never tasted victory.

“Right before [overtime] we kind of huddled together and we told each other that we love each other and just leave it all out on the floor, no matter what,” Minor said. “And that kind of brought us together, that no matter what, we’re still going to be together and we’re still going to be united, and that’s the kind of energy we brought during overtime.”

Virginia will need all that and more to knock off a hungry Wolfpack team tonight, a team that upset highly-favored Duke in the quarters. The Cavaliers will have one thing in their favor, though, in that this will be NC State’s fourth game in four days.