UVA basketball: ‘Hoos play with an edge
Ty Jerome, on his way to a 14-point, 12-assist night, hit the second of four made threes at the 16:06 mark of the first half, to put the ‘Hoos up 11-4.
On his way back up the court after the made three, which he drained from right in front of the Tech bench, he gestured in the general direction of the Hokies bench.
What did he say?
“I didn’t say anything. JPJ was packed. JPJ was amazing tonight, so thank you to all the fans. They gave us a little extra energy boost in the beginning. Coach Bennett said the energy will fade, but it’s about doing what we do throughout the course of the game,” Jerome said after the game.
Not buying it, but we’ll have to leave it at that, because.
OK, he said something.
Someone also saying something: Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson.
You’re lying if you had Robinson and UVA freshman guard Kihei Clark each scoring nine Tuesday night.
Clark didn’t have to score a single point to do what he was supposed to do out there.
Clark got 30 minutes of floor time off the bench, and his direction from coach Tony Bennett was, get in Justin Robinson’s shirt.
Robinson would finish with just one turnover in 28 minutes, but he also had just two assists and shot 2-of-7 from the floor.
Coming in, the senior had been averaging 13.1 points and 5.9 assists as the engine to the Tech attack.
He was clearly frustrated at Clark’s defensive stick-to-it-iveness, and that frustration came to a head on two different occasions.
First time was in the first half, after a Kyle Guy layup had extended the ‘Hoos lead to 37-20 with 3:34 to go.
The inbounds went to Robinson, and he struggled to get the ball up the court against Clark, who tipped the ball away once, then a second time, then a third time, the third time leading to him diving on the floor for the loose ball, which Robinson picked up and passed to a teammate.
Out of nowhere, coach Buzz Williams, from the other side of the floor, frantically signaled for a timeout.
Which seemed odd, until you saw Robinson jawing in the direction of Clark, who earned the reputation for being a pest in preseason workouts with Jerome, a projected NBA first-round pick, who can no doubt sympathize with Robinson on how hard it is to advance the ball against Clark’s ball pressure.
Robinson’s frustrations came to a head on an odd trip upcourt in the second half when he went out of his way to crash into Clark before passing the ball off to a teammate.
Finally, the boiling point: after a tip-in by Jerome with 9:37 left pushed the Virginia lead to 23, Robinson got the signal from Williams to advance the ball into the frontcourt before a timeout.
He did, and after calling the timeout, Robinson walked to Clark and thrust the ball at his chest, drawing a technical foul, and earning a trip to the bench.
High praise after the game for Clark from his coach.
“Kihei, he’s just got something inside of him,” Bennett said. “Those of who who’ve watched us can see that. He won’t back down, he’s quick and he’s got a low center of gravity, and that bodes well, and he just made (Robinson) earn most of the night.”
Column by Chris Graham