A Few Close Games
After a close game against the NC State Wolfpack, where the Virginia Wahoos were able to squeeze out a W in the last remaining seconds of overtime (66-65), the Wahoos turned around to play another surprisingly close game and won against the Miami Hurricanes (56-46). Out with a back injury, that he suffered during the matchup against NC State, junior point guard Ty Jerome did not dress again when the Cavaliers took on Miami at home. Although UVA walked away with two ACC wins to add to the record, the games were a bit too close for comfort for any Virginia basketball fan.
The Big Game
When ESPN announced College Gameday was returning to Charlottesville for the third time in four years, each of which has resulted in a loss for the ‘Hoos, the Cavalier fans hoped to break the College Gameday curse. However, the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils came dressed in their all-black uniforms for what they expected to be a “funeral.”
The first time these two teams met this season was in the middle of January at the intimidating Cameron Indoor Stadium, with the infamous “Cameron Crazies.” Up against the top three recruits, Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cameron Reddish, the Cavaliers knew this was going to be yet another tough match. However, the ‘Hoos found some comfort during this first meeting knowing that freshman guard Tre Jones would be riding the bench with a shoulder injury for this first meeting between ACC rivals.
Waiting in line for the doors to open to John Paul Jones Arena for the College Gameday festivities, the Virginia students joined in camaraderie and amusement reading each other’s creative posters, many of which were crafted with not so subtle digs at the legendary 6-7, 284 pounds forward who might as well be a linebacker, Zion Williamson. After making the half-court shot for the third time that UVA has hosted College Gameday, the students felt a jolt of energy and a glimmer of hope. However, doubts started to trickle into the orange-out section when Jay Williams, who admitted he had picked all the wrong teams in his predictions for College Gameday thus far, ripped open his shirt revealing a Virginia jersey underneath. Although fans hoped his prediction was right, they knew Charlottesville has been previously plagued by the gameday curse, so they couldn’t help to think this was an ominous sign.
As the day progressed and the fans started to filter into the stands and seats of the arena, they anticipated a good match, after all, it was the No.2 versus the No.3 team. As the Blue Devils stomped onto the court massive in size and strength, the crowd booed in hopes of getting into the minds of Coach K’s talented players.
From tip-off, something seemed off with the Cavaliers. They seemed irresponsible with the ball, they were rushing the offense and seemed to be playing scared, a description that diverges from the usual Tony Bennett recipe. Accumulating 12 points in the first nine minutes, Duke freshman R.J. Barrett shot three’s as if his life was on the line. He hit his first five three-pointers which left the Cavaliers with a long road of recovery from the large deficit. However, the ‘Hoos picked up momentum and started to hit their shots, they began to close the gap in the remaining minutes of the first half which caused the arena to erupt in admiration for the possibility of a potential comeback in the second half.
Unfortunately, the Wahoos could not produce this same energy in the second half. The Blue Devils maintained their lead over the home team for the entirety of the game and never allowed the ‘Hoos to catch up. The Duke freshmen powerhouses contributed to the Blue Devil success: Barrett totaled 26 points, Williamson locked in 18 points, Cameron Reddish put 17 points on the scoreboard, and Tre Jones brought 13 points to the table. In contrast, UVA junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy each totaled 16 points and redshirt sophomore De’Andre Hunter contributed 11 points to the Cavaliers score. With the way Duke was shooting, there was no stopping them and the Virginia fans walked out of the arena disappointed by the 10-point deficit (81-71) and yet another loss to the Blue Devils.
A quick turnaround, the Cavaliers faced the North Carolina Tarheels, another neighboring state rival just two days following their intense game against Duke.
Although the game became close at times, Virginia’s guard Guy was able to come through and solidify 69-61 a victory for the Wahoos on the road. Both Guy and Hunter had 20 points and Jerome trailed by five.
On the Horizon
The Cavaliers get a few days of much-needed rest before they host the Fighting Irish this Saturday scheduled to start at 2 pm.
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