No. 9 Virginia had to battle for Tony Bennett’s 200th career win in Charlottesville, but got it done thanks to some hot shooting from second year Ty Jerome and the incomparable motor of Isaiah Wilkins.
It was the tale of two Jeromes as the Virginia Cavaliers (12-1, 1-0 ACC) faced off against the ACC-leading Boston College Eagles (10-4, 1-1 ACC) to kick off ACC play. Virginia’s Ty Jerome scored a career-high 31 points while Jerome Robinson finished with 29 for the Eagles. Jerome is the first Wahoo to hit the 30 point mark since Joe Harris dropped 36 on Duke in 2013.
Jerome shot 11-for-17 from the field and a nice 6-for-9 from three for the game, and added five rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Wilkins had another “do everything” game as he finished just shy of a double-double with eight points, a career-high 14 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and four blocks. His final block came with just 3.1 seconds left on the game with the Hoos holding on to a one point lead.
Virginia has now won 10 straight ACC openers, and Bennett is a perfect 9-0 in ACC openers in his tenure at Virginia.
Kyle Guy made his first three point attempt of the game, getting off to a bit of a quicker start today as he scored eight in the first half before heading to the bench with two fouls. Jerome led the Hoos with 12 first half points, and Isaiah Wilkins had six points and six rebounds.
Virginia jumped out to a 17-10 lead, but nine straight points over three minutes gave the Eagles - or rather Jerome Robinson and Jordan Chatman - a 19-17 lead. Jerome hit two threes - sandwiched around a Guy three - to stop the bleeding for the Hoos and give Virginia a seven-point lead once again. A hook shot made Nik Popovic the first Boston College player not named Robinson or Chatham to score a bucket and trimmed UVA’s lead to 26-21.
The two teams traded buckets down the stretch, giving Virginia a 30-25 lead heading into halftime. Virginia shot 43% from the field and 31% from three in the first 20 minutes, while the Eagles were 40% and 20%, respectively. Robinson and Chatman combined for 21 of BC’s 25 points, with Popovic scoring the other four. Impressively, the Hoos held Ky Bowman - who came into today’s game as BC’s leading scorer with 21.8 points per game - scoreless in the first half.
Isaiah Wilkins played incredible defense in the first half, brutally blocking shots left and right - one of which ricocheted back to the scorer’s table near midcourt.
Virginia didn’t attempt a free throw in the first half, and turned it over an abysmal eight times. On the other side of the ball, BC had nine first half turnovers and just one assist, but were able to ride Chatman and Robinson to a close first half. Even more surprising, the Eagles were able to remain close despite making just two of their attempted 10 threes.
Robinson continued with his hot shooting, scoring BC’s first six points of the second half as the Eagle cut Virginia’s lead to 34-31. Ky Bowman hit his first bucket of the game - a three pointer - with 11:05 left in the game.
Salt, Jerome, and Wilkins carried the Hoos in the second half, but a jumper by Kraljevic tied the game at 45 with 8:34 to play. On their next trip down the court, Jerome hit a floater in the lane with contact and buried the free throw to give the Hoos a 48-45 lead.
Guy hit a three to put the Hoos ahead by six, but back to back threes from Robinson knotted the game at 51 with 5:15 to play. Jerome answered with a three to make it 54-51, Robinson countered with a jumper with Devon Hall’s hand in his face, then Jerome hit ANOTHER deep three to make it 57-53 with just over two minutes to play.
The Hoos played outstanding defense for just about the entire shot clock, but BC’s Chatman was bailed out as he tried to step back for a jumper and they called a foul on Kyle Guy. Chatman calmly made both, making it a 57-55 game with just under two minutes to play.
Down the other end of the court, Ty Jerome drew the foul in the lane and hit two free throws to extend Virginia’s lead to four at 59-55.
Wilkins had an impressive game, battling with foul trouble coming on some questionable calls.
The last three seconds of the game were some of the most bizarre seen in college basketball in recent memory. After Wilkins emphatically blocked the ball out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left, the Eagles had to inbound the ball needing just a two to take the lead and pull off the upset. BC’s player over-threw the pass, which Wilkins tipped and took in for the dunk, seemingly putting the nail on the coffin of the game. Instead, the refs (including the always fun Jamie Luckie) determined that the JPJ clock operator started the clock too early.
Apparently, according to the rulebook, this gave the ball back to BC with another chance at the win. The Eagles got the ball in, but Jack Salt drew the offensive foul (his second of the game) and the Hoos earned the victory. Salt finished the game with six points on 3-for-3 shooting with four rebounds, an assist, and no fouls.
Virginia shot 39.7% from the field and 39.1% from three.
Next up, the Hoos head on the road to Blacksburg for a big test against Virginia Tech on January 3.