Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt and Mamadi Diakite each had two first-half fouls, and each picked up fouls three and four in the second half, as the Hokies got to the line 23 times, just off their season average of 25.4, which is 20th-best in the nation.
‘Hoos coach Tony Bennett had to feel like he was riding out a storm trying to manage minutes in the post, eventually going to what amounted to a four-guard lineup, with redshirt freshman guard DeAndre Hunter giving him 24 minutes off the bench at the four.
It helps when Hunter, a 6’7” guard, is +24 in his 24 minutes as a big, and scores a team-high 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, including 2-of-4 from three-point range.
Depth: that’s why this Virginia team is dangerous.
Six different players have led the Cavaliers in scoring this season. Two, Hunter and Nigel Johnson, give UVA punch off the bench.
And we should mention Diakite in this part of the conversation, talking bench play. The sophomore had nine points in 11 minutes off the bench Wednesday night, shooting 4-of-5 from the field, prevented from adding to his season total of three double-digit games by his foul trouble.
Bennett seems to have settled on an eight-man rotation, and of those eight, seven are serious contributors offensively.
(The other, Salt, good at setting screens, decent at catching the ball at the hoop and flushing. We still love ya, Jack. We do. Really do.)
Defense is a given with any Bennett team, but this group may be his best. It’s still early, just two games into the ACC part of the season, but the 2017-2018 ‘Hoos are allowing opponents just .853 points per possession, a tick ahead of the 2014-2015 group that allowed .855 points per possession.
You remember that team. Started 28-1, before being undone by its limitations on the offensive end in March.
This team is at least comparable defensively, and has the chance to be better on the offensive end.
Story by Chris Graham