By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — The basketball went to University of Virginia guard Ty Jerome on the perimeter, and he tossed it inside to Devon Hall, who then fired it to Darius Thompson in right corner. Thompson passed it back to Hall, who had moved to the right wing, and then Hall swung the ball left to Jerome, who had an open 3-pointer but chose instead to feed Kyle Guy, uncovered in the left corner.
Guy didn’t hesitate, and he didn’t miss. His trey pushed UVA’s lead over Boston College to 58-34 with 11:33 left Wednesday night. That all but sealed the outcome of this ACC game at BC’s Conte Forum, where the crowd of 5,038 included a strong showing of New England-based Virginia fans.
“I think that was one of the most beautiful possessions I’ve seen this year,” UVA head coach Tony Bennett said after his team’s 71-54 victory.
“That really embodies the way we have to play,” Jerome said. “That’s the strength of this team: unity.”
On a night when the No. 16 Cavaliers tied their season low with five turnovers, they were credited with 22 assists on their 27 field goals and shot 51.9 percent from the floor.
Hall, a redshirt junior, led Virginia (14-3, 4-2) with a season-high six assists, and Jerome, a freshman, added five, his most in an ACC game. Senior point guard London Perrantes handed out four assists, as did Thompson, a redshirt junior.
“That’s playing for each other,” Bennett said. “That’s sharing the ball. That’s not worrying about getting your own or getting numbers. That’s efficient basketball, and again our offense has to be part of our defense. If we’re moving the ball, that can wear [opponents] down, and when we’re getting good shots, that’s demoralizing at times.”
Before the month is over, Virginia will play two more road games: the first on Tuesday night against No. 15 Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana; and the second on Jan. 29 against No. 1 Villanova in Philadelphia.
Each will be a significant challenge for the Wahoos, but they’ve shown this season that they’re capable of winning in hostile environments, among them California’s Haas Pavilion, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, and Clemson’s Littlejohn Coliseum.
“Those are important things,” Bennett said. “They’re deposits that you can remember and say, `Hey, if we can just stay steady and do the right things, we’re going to have a chance.’
“We always talk about, home or away, what we have to do to eliminate losing, and I thought we were decent in our transition defense tonight and very good taking care of the ball. Our defensive rebounding wasn’t great, but it was OK.”
With its fourth straight victory over Boston College, Virginia improved its record in road games this season to 5-1. (UVA is 2-0 at neutral sites.) The Eagles (9-10, 2-4) are not an elite team, but they scored 96 points in a Jan. 1 win over Syracuse at Conte Forum, and they’ve also won at home against NC State and Providence.
“I know that they’ve beaten good teams in here and they play well at home, so to be able to get this one is big,” said Hall, who led Virginia with 13 points.
Boston College has one of the ACC’s top scorers in sophomore guard Jerome Robinson, who came in averaging 20.3 points per game. Another BC guard, freshman Ky Bowman, came in averaging 12.2 points.
Virginia held Robinson to nine points and Bowman to seven. Robinson, who was 4 for 14 from the floor, didn’t make a field goal until early in the second half — long after the Cavaliers had built a commanding lead. UVA led by 17 at halftime and by 26 with 8:45 remaining.
Coming off an uncharacteristically poor defensive effort — Clemson shot 50 percent from the floor at Littlejohn on Saturday — the Cavaliers were considerably tougher at that end against Boston College (38.5 percent).
“They came out and hit us right in the mouth,” BC head coach Jim Christian said. “We missed a lot of good shots against a good defensive team. I thought they were unbelievably good on defense and took advantage of our mistakes and did a very good job taking us out of transition.”
During a 15-0 run in the first half, the `Hoos held BC scoreless for a stretch of 5 minutes and 25 seconds, and that “just fueled their defense,” Christian said.
Robinson and Bowman are “super-aggressive” on offense, said UVA forward Isaiah Wilkins, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, “and we know that they like to get out in transition, so we just tried to get back and really get the ball stopped and help our guards a lot.”
For the most part, Bennett said, Virginia did not allow Robinson and Bowman to get comfortable, “though they did miss some pretty good looks at times. But I’ve watched what they’ve done to some other teams, and I thought we were better defensively. We still have room for improvement, but we were a little more active and swarming, and I think that’s important.”
However, Bennett added, “I wouldn’t get crazy and say we were great defensively. [The Eagles] were off shooting. They missed a lot of shots, so I want to keep that real, but we were better than we’ve been the last couple [games] defensively … They had to hit for the most part contested shots.”
Perrantes, UVA’s leading scorer this season, played only seven minutes in the second half and 20 overall against BC. On a night when the Cavaliers’ reserves sparkled, Bennett could afford to rest the team’s lone senior. Most of UVA’s game-changing 15-0 run came with Perrantes on the bench.
Reserve guards Thompson, Guy and Jerome combined for 25 points, and each logged at least 20 minutes Wednesday night.
Virginia hosts Georgia Tech (11-7, 3-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday at sold-out John Paul Jones Arena, and Perrantes figures to play a larger role in that game.
“We run everything through him,” Jerome said, “and to get him a breather and keep him fresh is helpful for us in the long run too.”
Hall, who scored in double figures only four times in 2015-16, has had at least 10 points in five of Virginia’s past six games. He’s fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding.
When Bennett employs a four-guard lineup, the 6-5 Hall often shifts to power forward. That hasn’t fazed the Cape Henry Collegiate graduate.
“He’s just playing at a steady level,” Bennett said. “His versatility is helping us, and we continue to need that.”
Hall said attributed his improved consistency on offense to “staying confident and aggressive and being able to pick and choose where I want to get [to] my spots and take shots when I’m open.”