When the Virginia men’s basketball schedule, including a matchup against Maryland, was announced in March, fifth-year and sole senior of the Virginia team, Jack Salt, knew what to expect out of the old rivalry against the Terrapins.
An Old Rivalry
I remember in 2012 when the University of Maryland, a founding member of the ACC, decided to leave the conference. My household would no longer be subject to a bitter division over college basketball. As a daughter of a Terp mother and Wahoo father, I appreciated the 2014-2015 season when I no longer had to pick a team in honor of my parents. However, last Wednesday’s game reminded me of the level of competition between the two programs which always guarantees a good matchup.
Although the ‘Hoos returned from their short trip to College Park with another victory in their pocket, the Terrapins did not go down without a fight. Prepared for the hostile environment in which Maryland fans welcomed the Cavaliers chanting “UMBC! UMBC!” No. 4 Virginia held off No. 24 Maryland and captured a 76-71 victory. Their closest score of the 2018-2019 season, the ACC-Big Ten matchup presented the first real challenge for the Cavaliers.
Jack Salt, the real MVP
As usual, Virginia’s Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter each racked up double digits for the Wahoo victory. However, redshirt senior Jack Salt surprised a lot of basketball fans with his contribution of 12 points, a new career high for the center. The 6’10” and 250-pound giant from New Zealand is known for his physical presence on the court which heightens his ability to rebound and block. Stepping into Terrapin territory with modest averages of 3.0 points and 3.8 rebounds per game, Salt lit up Virginia’s offense totaling 12 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot, and one steal on Wednesday night.
Up against UMD sophomore Bruno Fernando, an athlete of similar physical stature and a projected first-round NBA draft pick, Salt had met his match. Fernando totaled 14 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said, “Bruno’s such a good shot-blocker. He’s so athletic, and he goes after stuff. So, when shot-blockers go after it, if you can get it on the rim, there’s going to be open lanes or alleys to the glass, and Jack was all over there.”
The clear MVP of the game, Salt’s teammates commended his performance. After the game, Guy said, “we were joking [before the game] about how his career high is only 10 and he hasn’t dunked at all this year, and he put us all to bed tonight.”
At 7-0 and the last undefeated ACC team, the Cavaliers head back to work Monday night. Many Virginia fans are looking forward to watching UVa’s big man take on Morgan State in their upcoming game.
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