Keys to the Game: #1 UVA vs. #7 Virginia Tech
Justin Robinson is a tough guard for a lot of teams, but he was particularly hard for UVA in the 61-60 Virginia Tech win in JPJ last February.
Robinson had a game-high 20 points and seven assists in the Tech win, though he had to work for it: shooting the ball 17 times, and he had five turnovers.
Robinson, at his best, is a perfect antidote to the Pack-Line. He’s fearless in the pick-and-roll, which UVA defends by having the big double the ball out front, with guards helping out on the dive from the offensive big to take away that option, and the usual course of action being, the point guard has to pass the ball out of the double on the wing, rendering the pick-and-roll almost totally useless as an offensive weapon.
Robinson will force the action against the hard hedge, which helps explain the five turnovers, but also the seven assists, and the six fouls that he drew in the game.
Robinson only shot four free throws, so at least a couple of times, he was able to draw fouls on those hard hedges, and even though they didn’t immediately lead to charity tosses, fouls count toward the seven that get your team to the line for one-and-ones and bonuses, and toward the five that a player has before disqualification.
The ‘Hoos will need to be assertive in the hard hedges on Robinson, and will need to be able to turn some of the live-ball turnovers that they create from Robinson’s aggressiveness into easy points.
#12 needs to come up big
We can assume that Buzz Williams will use, at least for a stretch, the pack-it-in zone that he used to key that win in JPJ last February.
The counter to that needs to be De’Andre Hunter, who actually had a nice game in the loss in JPJ, scoring 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 2-of-2 from three, in 26 minutes off the bench.
Hunter, at 6’7”, is the key to the zone offense for the ‘Hoos. Bennett likes to use him in the high post, setting up around the free-throw line to receive an entry pass.
From there, it’s his decision to dribble-drive through the soft spot in the zone, kick the ball out to the wing if the defense keys in on him, or hit the open jumper if the D sags.
Hunter was effective in that role in the wins at Duke and Syracuse and the Tech game last season, averaging 13.7 points and three assists a game on 59.3 percent shooting.
One concern was how he fared in the South Carolina game this season when the Gamecocks went zone. Hunter had just five points on 2-of-10 shooting in the win at SC in December, and looked uncharacteristically lost in the process.
Virginia will need the zone-beating Hunter Tuesday night.
I’m going to get myself in trouble here, suggesting more minutes for Jay Huff, because it’s low-hanging fruit, suggesting more minutes for Jay Huff.
C’mon. Get Jay on the floor!
Specifically, Huff could spell Hunter as the zone-beater, providing a bigger target if the Hokies collapse the zone on the free-throw line.
Huff can hit that jumper, and he can see over the defense for a high-low or pass to the wing.
What keeps Huff glued to the bench is that Virginia Tech tends to play small. Only Kerry Blackshear, at 6’10”, is a traditional post for the Hokies, who don’t play anybody else taller than 6’6”.
If Huff wants to earn some minutes Tuesday night, he’s going to have to be able to defend Blackshear, an above-average post scorer.
To his credit, Huff did a decent job checking Elijah Thomas in the win over Clemson on Saturday, and Thomas is an adept ACC post scorer.
Column by Chris Graham