Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett knew he would need production out of multiple players this season, and this was even more the case following Friday’s dismissal of highly-touted forward Austin Nichols. Nichols, who transferred to Virginia from Memphis, was expected to pick up a large portion of scoring that left when Malcolm Brogdon graduated after last season, as well as function as a rim protector defensively. Without him, the Hoos need to find other options on both ends of the court.
Enter first year Kyle Guy and red shirt first year Mamadi Diakite (pronounced dee-AH-key-tay). Guy, second off the bench behind Marial Shayok, contributed 12 points and three rebounds on 3-for-4 shooting (2-for-3 from three) in 16 minutes of playing time. He also went a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe. So far for the season, Guy is averaging eight points per game, shooting 61.5% from the field (75% from three), and has five assists and no turnovers.
Coach Bennett has been impressed with the spark Guy has provided, saying, “I think he’s a really good fit for what we do offensively, getting him off those screens and coming off quick with a shooting or hunting the shot mentality. He kind of elevates and knows how to fall away. That’s stuff that is natural. You see that in London [Perrantes] sometimes, you saw that in Joe Harris at times, I coached a guy at Washington State Klay Thompson - I’m not saying ‘oh Kyle is there’ - but there’s guys that can do that as a player where you can fly off and know you can rotate in the air.”
Guy is growing more accustomed to his offensive role with the Hoos as each game goes on.
“I still like to let the game come to me. I’m not one to force things, but I do like to make plays.” Guy stated. “When the big guys are screening like they were tonight, I’ll be able to shoot like that all the time.”
While Guy has been most impressive on the offense, Diakite is a human highlight reel defensively.
“Mamadi is a freak.” Guy said with a smile. “We see it every day in practice, the athleticism is unbelievable.”
Perrantes agrees. As someone who played with the super-athlete Justin Anderson, Perrantes sees something totally different in Diakite, saying:
“I don’t think Justin’s athletic ability compares to Mamadi. Mamadi’s is through the roof. We see some stuff in practice that is unreal and we have to double-take and actually stop practice to think about what he just did. That block he had today was huge, and it’s nothing new to us so having him out there is huge to have another rim protector.”
The block Perrantes spoke of is one of four Diakite had on the day. With Virginia holding a slight 21-19 lead with under three minutes remaining in the first half, Virginia’s Darius Thompson turned the ball over. What looked to be a sure layup for Yale was blocked (impressively) by Wilkins. The Bulldogs recovered the ball, only to have Diakite crush their spirits on the next attempt. A Wilkins steal would give Virginia the ball back, and Diakite used his momentum to score on the other end.
Diakite, who finished with five points, seven rebounds, and four blocks, is happy to play whatever role the team needs him to.
“Today, I think it was a great performance.” Diakite said when asked about his play against Yale. “The crowd was going crazy, so that pushed me into keeping going, blocking people, and playing defense. Mostly, that’s where the team needed me to play, to do so we can get the win. I’m willing to do whatever the team wants for me to keep going forward.”
Odds and Ends
- Marial Shayok continues to be the hot hand as the sixth-man for the Hoos. For the second time in three games, Shayok led the team in scoring and provided a spark offensively, this time when the Hoos really needed it. Shayok finished with 15 points on 6-for-14 shooting (42.9%), and added four rebounds, two assists, and a block.
“He plays real hard.” Bennett said of his sixth man, Shayok. “He’s a hard-playing defender, and offensively he’s aggressive. I like that. You could easily start a number of guys with this group, but Marial has really done a good job and brought some life when we needed it.”
- Darius Thompson had himself a nice game with 11 points, three assists, and a steal (although he also had four turnovers). He’s shooting 61.1% from the field (50% from three) on the season so far.
- Isaiah Wilkins tied his career-high in rebounds with nine. He finished with five points, three assists, and a block.
- London Perrantes dished out seven assists with no turnovers. Talk about ball security.
- Virginia held their opponent under 40 points for the 16th time in Bennett’s tenure. Today’s against Yale is the second time this season.
The Hoos host Grambling State on Tuesday at 7pm. Regional Sports Networks will broadcast the game.