After what seemed like a brutally long exam break, the No. 16 Virginia Cavaliers defended their home court against plucky three-happy Davidson on Saturday afternoon, winning 80-60. The Hoos were led by Devon Hall with a career high 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting. Nigel Johnson was stellar, adding 22 points of his own, and Kyle Guy quietly scored 19, 14 of which came in the second half. The win pushed the Hoos to 9-1 on the season while Davidson dropped to 4-4.
Virginia started out slowly, hitting just one of their first six shots (a dunk) and struggling to stop Davidson beyond the arc. They trailed the Wildcats 8-2 at the under-16 timeout and had an abysmal 16.7 shooting percentage from the field.
As usual, when the offense struggles, the defense picks up the slack. Hall hit a tough layup after a shot clock violation, and Isaiah Wilkins had back-to-back stellar plays on the defensive end to force turnovers. Mamadi Diakite provided a spark offensively, and Bennett went with height as he paired him and Huff against the smaller Davidson squad.
At the 10:34 mark of the first half, Davidson held a 14-9 lead over the Hoos as they shot 44.4% from three (and nine of their 11 attempted FGs were beyond the arc) and had 12 of their 14 points beyond the arc. After Wilkins hit two free throws, the Hoos pulled the gap to 18-16 with just under eight minutes to play in the first half. Virginia got a stop defensively, and tied the game at 18 on a nice take into the lane. The Hoos would take the lead on the next play after the defense forced a turnover and Nigel Johnson attempted the oop to Wilkins...but made the shot instead.
Johnson was crucial to the Hoos in the first half with 14 points on 5-for-7 shooting to go with a drawn charge, three steals, two rebounds, and an assist. The Hoos shot 45% from the field (and 56% from three) in the first half. Devon Hall added eight points for Virginia, and Diakite nabbed four first half rebounds.
The Wildcats converted 39% of their three pointers in the first half, and went 50% from the field. Peyton Aldridge led the Wildcats in the first half with nine points, and Oskar Michelsen chipped in eight of his own.
Virginia continued their hot shooting to start the second half, but Davidson hit just enough shots to stay within striking distance. Hall, combined with a hot hand from Guy, helped put the game out of reach and allowed everyone to breath a sigh of relief.
The Hoos shot 50% from the field and 53% from three in the game (56% and 50%, respectively, for the second half). They moved the ball around well offensively in the second half and played more physically. Every player that entered the game, minus Jay Huff who played just two minutes and the green machine, scored at least one bucket.
Aldridge led Davidson with 20 points and the Wildcats finished the game shooting 48% from the field and 31% from three.
Most Valuable Player
You can’t help but be thoroughly impressed with Nigel Johnson. He’s the first ever grad transfer for the Hoos under Tony Bennett, and after the way he’s played so far this season, he won’t be the last. He single-handedly kept Virginia in the game in the first half as he confidently hit shots and made smart plays on the ball. Defensively he hustled and hounded his player.
One of Nigel’s best plays came in the first half as he was on the round going for a loose ball. Rather than try and get possession himself, he tapped the ball towards his teammate on the sideline. Plays like that will get you a lot of good graces in Coach Bennett’s book. He also finished with four steals.
He finished the game with 22 points on 7-for-10 shooting and an all-around stuffed stat sheet. To cap it all off, he dunked the ball on a breakaway, delighting the sparse home crowd (a lot had left already).
-Bella Grace Cage belted out a beautiful rendition of the national anthem pregame. Very well done.
-After turning the ball over 14 times against West Virginia, the Hoos had just six in the game while forcing Davidson into 13 turnovers that led to 15 points.
-Kyle Guy had a relatively quiet game early as he struggled in the paint, but he shot well beyond the arc with 3-for-4 shooting and somehow finished with 19 points.
-Isaiah Wilkins is so incredibly good. He’s so aware of where he is and his teammates are at all times on the court. He does all the little things that you’d want a veteran leader to do, and he’s the best defender in the conference. He finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
-The peppermint brownies in the media room were to die for.