Virginia fans looking for assurances that they could still have high expectations despite the dismissal from the team of expected offensive stalwart Austin Nichols got plenty to feel good about Sunday in the No. 8 Cavaliers’ 62-38 victory against Yale.
Marial Shayok scored 15 points, freshman Kyle Guy had 12 and Darius Thompson 11 in a balanced offensive display that complemented aVirginia staple: defense. The Cavaliers (3-0) held Yale scoreless for a stretch of nearly nine minutes in the second half, making it look easy.
“To be able to have them coming off the bench for us is huge,” senior London Perrantes said of Shayok and Guy, who scored all but two points in a 16-0 run that turned a 37-33 lead into a runaway.
Guy, former Mr. Basketball in Indiana, scored eight in the blitz, hitting a pair of catch-and-shoot 3-pointers that drew roars.
“It was surreal when the crowd erupted after we hit a shot or got a stop,” he said.
Blake Reynolds led Yale (2-1) with 10 points. The Bulldogs arrived averaging 93.5 points, had an early 8-0 burst and then never found any rhythm again. They made only 16 of 48 field goal tries (33 percent).
Virginia had a lot to do with that. The Cavaliers had scoring runs of 22-0 in their opener against UNCG and 20-0 against St. Francis Brooklyn, and nearly matched that after Shayok scored off a feed from Perrantes to make it 39-33 and start the run with 15 minutes left.
And while pulling away on offense, they never lost sight of their need to attend to the defensive side.
“They did a great job limited opportunities tonight,” Bulldogs coach James Jones said.
Yale: The Bulldogs, who won their first NCAA Tournament game last season, will win plenty because they can score. They arrived at John Paul Jones Arena with five players averaging 12 points or better, including Downey (19.5 after averaging 5.7 last year) and Copeland (17 after averaging 2.3 last year). They also had 41 assists and just 17 turnovers coming in, but finished with 14 miscues and seven assists.
“Averaging 94 points a game, that’s not us,” Jones said.
Virginia: The Cavaliers were somewhat stagnant early on offensively, which probably was to be expected after Nichols was kicked off the team on Friday for an unspecified violation of team rules . Nichols was with the team all last season as a transfer and much of the offense was expected to be inside-out. The adjustment may take several games, making a game against Iowa on Friday night loom as a stiffer test.
“That was something we thought we had, and now we don’t,” Bennett said of Nichols’ offense. “We just have to adjust.”
WHERE’D THEY GO?
Downey finished with just four points on 2-for-10 shooting, and Miye Oni, averaging 18.5 coming in, had three on 1-for-8 shooting.
Redshirt freshman is another Cavaliers player that will look to pick up the slack left by Nichols’ absence, and he is already becoming a fan favorite for his shot-blocking ability and incredible athleticism, which Perrantes compared to former Virginia star Justin Anderson, now making highlight reel plays for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Diakite had four blocks against the Bulldogs, giving him five in two games.
Devon Hall has started all three games for Virginia as an off-guard, and “off” also has described his shot thus far.
Through three games, he’s just 3-for-14 from the field, including 1-for-6 from 3-point territory.
The Bulldogs stay on the road, and against ACC competition, as they play at Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.
The Cavaliers face Grambling State in the second round of the Emerald Coast Classic before moving to Florida for Round 3 against Iowa.
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