Happy New Year, Wahoo fans!
How about we talk some basketball, eh?
First off, congrats to the Women's Basketball team for taking down Virginia Tech 62-47 in Blacksburg on Sunday behind 16 points from Breyana Mason. The Hoos now lead the Commonwealth Clash 5.0-1.5. Way to go, ladies!
Now for the men.
To say 2014 was a great year for Virginia Men's hoops would be a pretty bold understatement as Tony Bennett's squads accumulated a 33-3 record in the 2014 calendar year.
Well, the Hoos closed out 2014 and opened 2015 in winning fashion. Both provided challenges that will likely serve the Cavaliers well down the stretch, but may have caused a little more anxiety than necessary.
First, Virginia was visited by the pesky Wildcats of Davidson. As many Hoo fans expected, Davidson came into John Paul Jones blazing, making 11 of 28 three pointers and having their way...that is until Anthony Gill did the damn thing.
The Gill-A-Monster scored a career high 25 points and 13 rebounds on 11 of 16 shooting. He did it all. Dunks. Jumpers. Layups. He did it against one-on-one coverage, and against double teams. On top of that, he dished out two assists, grabbed a steal, and blocked a shot. Apparently, this was also all because he "planted the seed" in his teammates heads the day earlier that he had a feeling "he'd be open". Classic.
Davidson's play gave the Cavaliers a good test before ACC play started, and showed that not every game was going to be a cake walk (more to come later...).
Check out the highlights.
With the win, Virginia entered conference play a perfect 12-0, and ranked No.3 in the AP and Coaches polls. For their first conference test, the Hoos hit the road and traveled to Coral Gables to take on Miami. The Hurricanes flirted with national rankings after defeating what has turned out to be a severely overrated Florida Gators team, but three losses to some inferior competition knocked them back out again.
Still, Miami has some talented redshirt juniors (Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan to be exact), and a sharp freshman three point shooter (Omar Sherman), and to top it off, Virginia had never won in Coral Gables. After a textbook first half in which Virginia outscored the Canes 38-20, it took Miami a quick four minutes or so for that to all come crumbling down.
Miami rallied in the second half, erasing the 18 point deficit and forcing overtime behind three free throws from Rodriguez. The first OT was shaping up to be a disaster until Justin Anderson decided it was a good time to get clutch and buried a cold blooded thr...
OH WAIT, LONDON PERRANTES IS THE TRUE HERO.
London entered Saturday's game making just 5-21 of his three point attempts...and made 5-9 against the Canes, including two late regulation icy, icy threes. On top of the 15 beyond the arc, he shot 11-12 from the line for a career-high 26 points and finished the game for the Hoos as the go-to free throw shooter with Malcolm Brogdon on the bench from "fouling out" (still salty). London is 22-25 from the free throw line on the season (88%), and the #CaliSwag is back in the house. Perrantes also dished out eight assists and contributed a steal and a block (!?). He played like a man possessed, but possessed with total badassery and chillness.
After Justin Anderson sent the game to double overtime with his, "Big pants. Big boy pants by Justin Anderson. Biiiig boy pants." shot, it was all Wahoos (a huge thank you to Shane Battier on that call). Tobey had some very important plays, finishing with 14 points, six rebounds, and a block. Darion Atkins and Marial Shayok played some fantastic minutes, 31 each to be exact. Atkins grabbed 12 rebounds and scored eight of his own while the first year scored nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks with zero turnovers. His defense on Rodriguez in OT was crucial (THANKS, BUZZ).
Check out London's smile after one clutch three (4:54 mark) and at the end of OT (6:36 mark, behind JA).
The Hoos are an impressive 13-0 now, but what's most impressive is how they've done it. 11 of 13 wins were by double digits. Virginia has had five different players lead the team in scoring (Anderson, Brogdon, Gill, Tobey, and now Perrantes), and five lead (or share the lead) in rebounding (Anderson, Gill, Tobey, Atkins, and Wilkins). They rank fourth in both adjusted defense and offense, according to KenPom.com, and are the only team in the nation that are top five in both categories. Justin Anderson's 58.8% from three point land leads the nation (no other ACC player is even in the top 50), and Virginia's scoring defense is second in the country and they're third nationally in rebounding margin.
Finding ways to win, and doing it as a team.
Teamwork baby. pic.twitter.com/gvZUI75oLP"— Kim Kastuk (@CoachKastuk) January 3, 2015
Next up, the Hoos host NC State, who have jumped to a 2-0 ACC record and are coming off of a big win over Pitt. Game is Wednesday at 7pm at JPJ. Welcome the guys home in style, HooCrew.
Finally, I'd like to finish this week by recognizing a significant loss to the sports world that occurred over the weekend.
Yesterday, news broke that long time ESPN anchor Stuart Scott passed away after a long battle with cancer. I know for me, Stuart Scott greatly shaped my love for sports as I grew up watching him over breakfast and learning to love this crazy roller-coaster ride that we go on with our favorite teams. His catch-phrases worked their way into our rhetoric, and 'BOO-YOW' is still one of my favorite in-highlight exclamations.
Last year at the ESPYS, Scott delivered the Jimmy V "Don't Give Up" speech of our generation in which he declared, "When you die, it does not mean you lose to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live."
You're right, Mr. Scott. You didn't lose, the sports world did. Rest in peace. You were always cooler than the other side of the pillow.
As always, GO HOOS!