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‘Finesse-y” Virginia bigs out-tough the toughs from Carolina

jay huff unc
Jay Huff slams home two of his 17 points in UVA’s 60-48 win over North Carolina. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

It wasn’t that long ago that Virginia coach Tony Bennett was adding the word “finesse-y” to the lexicon to try to challenge his team.

“Finesse-y.” Ha.

Bennett’s Cavaliers out-Carolina’d North Carolina Saturday night in a gritty 60-48 win in JPJ.

The matchup was a classic contrast in styles: Virginia’s finesse-y bigs, Sam Hauser and Jay Huff, who do their damage from three, against North Carolina’s clown car of talented bigs, around preseason ACC Player of Year Garrison Brooks.

The book said Carolina’s bigs were tougher, because the guy who wrote the book thinks it’s still 1985.

Basketball in 2021 isn’t dump the ball in the post and overpower the other guy.

Twitter, though, seems to think that is the case.

“I was definitely proud of the one foul, especially when I overheard my dad send me stuff. He’s all over Twitter. It’s hilarious actually, but he sent me something where UNC’s plan was to get me in foul trouble,” said Huff, who, yes, the game plan going in was, get him in foul trouble, considering his proclivities there …

Huff had one foul Saturday night, which allowed him to get 34 minutes in.

His third-highest minutes total of the season, for those keeping score.

Huff: in on the joke.

“Which is understandable, because I’ve had some games this year where that’s been a problem,” said Huff, who had a game-high 18 points, on 6-of-10 shooting, 3-of-5 from three, and a game-high 12 rebound, along with four blocked shots.

“Luckily, we were able to avoid that, and then in second half, I was able to go block a couple more shots that I might have tried not to foul on in the first half.”


Huff had his big game. And then Hauser had 17 points in 36 minutes, also just one personal foul.

Their counterparts: Brooks had five points, 2-of-7 shooting, six rebounds.

Armando Bacot: seven points, 3-of-7 shooting, 10 rebounds.

They were outplayed on their own side by seldom-used freshman Walker Kessler, who had nine points and five rebounds in 12 minutes off the bench.

The “finesse-y” guys beat the tough guys.

Bennett, on the why.

“Well, you don’t have a choice. Well, you do have a choice, actually, against Carolina,” Bennett said. “They kind of demand you to stand in there and be physical if you want to have any kind of success against them. That’s why I liked what Jay and Sam did. I thought they were physical. And then there were the guys that didn’t play a lot that came in they moved hard, they worked hard, and we were locked in.

“Carolina missed some bunnies, some close ones, and they didn’t have a very good shooting game from three, so all that stuff plays into it,” Bennett said. “It’s always a battle of kind of imposing your will or systems against them, so I liked how we had a level of patience and movement offensively, that helped us, and then we didn’t give up too many easy breakdowns. A couple at the rim, but not too many.”

So, the Virginia guys out-toughed the Carolina toughs.

They also still out-finessed them.

Hauser was 4-of-6 from three; Huff, 3-of-5.

Bigs who play the way UNC’s bigs play don’t particularly like having to go out and guard guys on the perimeter.

“Sam is always a lights-out shooter. I feel like I’ve been shooting it well recently. It’s hard to guard,” Huff said afterward. “They know our mover-blocker offense that we run. It makes it difficult when anyone that’s running back can shoot.”

It’s more difficult when guys who can out-tough the toughs can then go down on the other end and shoot the way Huff and Hauser do.

There might be something to their “finesse-y” way.

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
augusta free press