Kihei Clark is back: Hawking D, touching the paint, hard hedge postgame
Kihei Clark was on the bench for the tip for the second straight game this week for #15 Virginia. He responded better this time.
The junior, a second-team preseason All-ACC selection, checked in at the 15:57 mark, the first media timeout, and was on the floor for 38 of the final 41 minutes, and he was the catalyst on both ends down the stretch.
On defense, he took on Mike Nuga, who’d scored 18 points, hit three second-half threes, was carrying Kent State to a big second half.
Nuga made one of his last six shots, a transition bucket with 4:14 to go.
He missed his last four.
As he was shutting down Nuga, Clark was taking over on the offensive end.
With Kent State in foul trouble – the Flashes would eventually have three guys foul out – Clark was relentless with his forays into the paint.
He converted one layup, then got to the line four times in the final 8:19.
For the game, he drew an absurd 10 Kent State fouls, according to StatBroadcast.
After getting just 15 minutes of floor time on Tuesday in the blowout win over Saint Francis, and having coach Tony Bennett answer a reporter’s question, curtly, that it was just a “personal decision,” it would seem that Clark is back in Bennett’s good graces.
“He brought what he needed to bring in. He’s got to bring it nonstop. That was important. He’s quick, and again, he’s got to make the good decisions, and I thought he had a nice stretch for us, for sure,” Bennett said, by way of understatement.
Virginia needs the Kihei Clark who dominated on both ends Friday night – scoring 14 points, dishing out three assists, with one turnover, and being the difference-maker down the stretch on Nuga.
Glad to see him back.
It was also good to see the Clark, a young man of few words, who typically hard hedges when asked questions postgame.
A reporter asked postgame about his benching, which is a fairly obvious question, considering his chops.
Clark, as you could sense was coming, offered a Kevin Costner in “Bull Durham”-type quote about doing whatever his team needs him to do to be able to win.
Asked later his thoughts on his team’s fire and competitiveness, Clark dialed up more Costner.
“We got a long way to go,” Clark said. “I know it’s a long season. It’s early. We just have to learn how to grind it out. Coach Bennett said after the game: We think we’re playing at our max effort, but there’s a whole ‘nother level that we have to get to in order to reach the next level of play. So, especially during Michigan State, we’re definitely going to have to up our effort a lot more.”
Story by Chris Graham