Ignited by Kyle Guy and DeAndre Hunter, Virginia improved its conference road record to 7-0 late Tuesday night with a 59-50 victory at Miami.
No other team has more than four ACC road wins this season.
Hunter scored a game-high 22 points, and Guy added 13, as U.Va. (24-2, 13-1 ACC) rebounded impressively from Saturday’s overtime setback at home to Virginia Tech.
The Hokies’ defense denied the interior and turned the Cavaliers into jump shooters, but Tuesday Virginia ran its offense inside-out. The Cavaliers never trailed and shot a solid 45.8 percent, scored 24 points in the paint and attempted a reasonable 17 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We just thought we showed better shot selection,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told radio analyst Jimmy Miller in their postgame interview. “We had a lull to start the second half. We told the guys we’re not necessarily a knockout-punch team, but you just keep chipping away and working at both ends of the floor and imposing our style and system that way. And I thought we did.”
(Full disclosure: I was not in Coral Gables and am blogging from the couch.)
Meanwhile, Virginia’s defense was typically exceptional.
Miami (18-7, 7-6) began the night fourth among ACC teams in shooting percentage at 46.9 percent. The Hurricanes shot 39.1 percent, and freshman guard Chris Lykes (19 points) was their only double-figure scorer.
The first half was vintage Virginia, its pack-line defense allowing few open shots, its offense good enough in spurts to forge a working margin.
They key stretch was a 13-0 binge in which the Hurricanes missed 10 consecutive shots and the Cavaliers extended to a 26-12 lead. Guy capped the run with his second 3-pointer.
Virginia made four from beyond the arc in the first half on only nine attempts, a clear sign of lessons learned from Saturday’s loss to Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers launched 38 threes in that contest, 62.3 percent of their total shots, an untenable ratio.
Their halftime lead of 27-16 — Miami shot 21.4 percent in the opening half — would have been larger had Hunter been a little more patient. Attacking the Hurricanes’ 2-3 zone from the high post, he attempted 10 shots in 14 minutes, making just three.
He excelled in the second half, though, making five of his six shots.
While not as effective or as renowned defensively as Virginia, Miami can guard, too. And when the Cavaliers managed only two points in the opening six minutes after intermission, the Hurricanes drew within 29-26 and prompted a Bennett timeout.
But Guy and/or Hunter countered each time Miami threatened.
The final time came with Virginia nursing a 40-36 margin. Guy hit a jumper followed by a Hunter 3-pointer.
With 3:02 remaining, Hunter removed all doubt with a right-corner 3-pointer on which he was fouled by Sam Waardenburg. Hunter made the ensuing free throw for a 55-40 lead.
“Big game from him,” Bennett said of Hunter. “I challenged the guys before, ‘Can you have more energy? I know we’re — it’s just part of it — you’re a little fatigued at this time. Can you have more energy than Miami?’”
Virginia edged Michigan State for No. 1 in the Associated Press poll Monday, its first top ranking since 1982. One day earlier, the NCAA tournament selection committee seeded the Cavaliers No. 1 overall in its preliminary top 16.
Virginia is No. 3 in the coaches poll behind Michigan State and Villanova, but Tuesday the Cavaliers distinguished themselves again.
U.Va.’s next game isn’t until Feb. 21, at home versus Georgia Tech, a respite that is ideally timed. The Cavaliers need to chill for a spell and recharge for the final four regular-season tests and ACC and NCAA tournaments — they lead Clemson (9-3) by two games in the loss column in the league regular-season race.
The time off also will give Ty Jerome’s injured right thumb time to heal. He played with a wrap/cast for the second game Tuesday and appeared hesitant to shoot. He was 1-of-4 from the floor but assisted on seven buckets.
Virginia’s remaining road opponents are Pittsburgh (8-19, 0-14) and Louisville (18-8, 8-5). The Cavaliers have never gone undefeated on the road in the ACC.
Teel can be reached by phone at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.