‘Otherworldly’ Virginia Blasts Hokies, With Duke as Reward

By Jerry Ratcliffe

On the eve of the biggest basketball game in modern state history, Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said that what rival coach Tony Bennett had done at Virginia was “otherworldly.”

That may come in handy at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night against presently No. 1-ranked Duke in what super-hyped ESPN promotions have described as the biggest intergalactic matchup of the year.

Williams must have felt as if he were visiting another planet at halftime of Tuesday night’s battle of Top 10’s at sold out John Paul Jones Arena. His team, ranked ninth and seventh depending on your poll preference, trailed Virginia (No. 4 or 1) by 44-22.

Bennett’s Cavaliers played otherworldly the first 20 minutes, connecting on 68 percent of their shots (17-25) and 71.4 percent from behind the arc (10-14).

It’s normally unwise to declare game over at the break, but this one essentially was even though the visiting Hokies played admirably in the second half. Nothing was really going to change this blowout, 81-59, as Virginia remained one of the two unbeatens in the country and improved to 16-0 overall, 4-0 in the ACC.

“It’s a little bit of pick your poison, because I don’t think that there is ever necessarily a non-shooter or a non-offensive player on the floor [for Virginia],” said Williams after his team dropped to 14-2/ 3-1. “I think [UVA] is incredibly sound in what they do.

“They are doing more than they have done in the past,” Williams added. “I think [Bennett] utilizes that talent in different ways, but there is not a guy that they are going to put on the floor that can’t make shots or make a play for one another.”

The Hokies entered the game leading the nation in defensive 3-point field goal percentage. They gave up 10 — count ‘em, 10 — 3-pointers in the first half.

“Defensively, you’re stressed from the start,” Williams said.

He was correct in that assessment. Virginia’s three-headed monster of Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter, combined to shoot 18-of-31 for the night.

But that wasn’t all. Braxton Key was 3-for-5 (7 points); 7-foot reserve center Jay Huff, who is starting to come on strong, was 3-for-3 (7 points, including a 3-pointer); Kihei Clark, who regained his shooting touch after having his cast removed Monday, was 3-for-6 (all his 9 points coming off 3-pointers).

Pick your poison, indeed.

Perhaps one of the overlooked intangibles in this game didn’t have anything to do with statistics. Many believed that in Virginia’s lone home loss last season (to Tech), the Hokies came in and took it to the Cavaliers from the get-go.

Not Tuesday night. Virginia was wire-to-wire jacked up and was ready to meet any intensity the Hokies may have packed for the trip. Instead, it was the Cavaliers that brought the fire.

“We punched them in the mouth early and didn’t let off the gas pedal,” said Guy, who finished with 15 points, behind Hunter’s game-high 21.

If Virginia has any faults this season, it’s that sometimes the Cavaliers will build a healthy lead and then allow opponents to stick around and get back within striking distance (i.e. at Boston College and Clemson last week), before polishing them off with a flurry of scoring.

Not Tuesday night.

“The way [Bennett] coaches, he’s so hard on us,” Guy said, meaning that in a good, motivating way, not a Bobby Knight intimidating kind of way. “If you were in the huddle with him today you wouldn’t have imagined we were up 20. He’s a demanding coach and that really helps us when we’re in a blowout game like this.”

As Virginia fans like to term, it was a “Cavalanche” from the beginning, not something that emerged in desperation down the second half backstretch. It was also the second time in 10 days that the Cavaliers have annihilated the ninth-ranked team in the nation (Florida State was the first).

When reminded of that fact, Bennett, in his modest aw shucks way of blowing off his team’s dominance, commented about well his team had played and shot the ball, and defended well, before he said what it all means.

“Your reward is you get to go to Duke next,” Bennett deadpanned.

Yes, for the intergalactic matchup of the week, Part 2.

He’s hoping that “otherworldly” reference by Williams holds true through Saturday night.


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