The Virginia men’s basketball has a way of redeeming the hope of UVa fans. While the close game in Blacksburg ended in defeat for Virginia football, the championship matchup in Atlantis concluded in a Wahoo victory and more importantly, showcased a promising season for the resilient UVa squad.
The ‘Hoos escaped the rainy Virginia weather and headed to the Bahamas for their Thanksgiving break and first tournament play of the 2018-2019 season. On Wednesday night, the Wahoos rolled past Middle Tennessee State in a 74-52 victory. Junior Kyle Guy and redshirt Sophomore De’Andre Hunter put up 15 points each. Alabama transfer Braxton Key followed by adding 13 points to the final score. As if the 22-point deficit was not enough to make the traveling crow of Wahoos rock the Imperial Arena, the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils fell short in the first round in a tough matchup against the No. 3 Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The Cavaliers went on to hold off the Dayton Flyers 66-59 on Thursday in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. Once again, Hunter, who Virginia fans worried would leave for the draft after last season, gave the fans a show and matched his career high of 23 points. One of his most memorable performances occurred as the shot clock expired near the end of the first half.
The third and final night of play confirmed the 6-7 guard’s promising talent. In the Championship game on Friday night, Hunter racked up 20 points and nine rebounds to secure Virginia’s victory over No. 25 Wisconsin. A tougher matchup than Virginia has seen thus far this season, the battle against the Badgers tested the ‘Hoos grit. Wisconsin redshirt Junior Ethan Happ posed a problem for Virginia runs. However, Virginia’s Hunter and junior guard Ty Jerome ensured the Wahoos 53-46 victory over the Badgers.
All Eyes on Hunter
Rightfully so, Hunter was named the preseason tournament MVP. Averaging 16.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in just 28.7 minutes per game, Hunter is looking like the key to Virginia’s success. Was he the piece of the puzzle the Cavaliers so desperately needed last March in the tournament? Fully recovered from the injury that eliminated him from playing in the 2018 NCAA tournament, Hunter is now making 46.7 percent of his 3s, when shooting was supposedly his only weakness.
Denying their opponents from reaching 60 points, the Cavaliers ran through the Battle 4 Atlantis and put on a show for Virginia fans. With the help of a healthy Hunter, it is very likely the ‘Hoos will have another successful regular season. The Cavaliers will once again take the road when they face the Maryland Terrapins Wednesday night.