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Hunter’s 14 leads No. 8 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 78-52

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — De’Andre Hunter said it was all about the first shot.

As one of the first players off the bench for No. 8 Virginia at Virginia Tech on Wednesday night, the freshman made a 3-pointer to give the Cavaliers a 21-12 lead. He went on to score 14 points, leading a balanced offense and a smothering defense as the Cavaliers rolled to a 78-52 victory.

It was Virginia’s largest margin of victory in the series since a 107-59 win on Feb. 18, 1955.

“I know I can shoot,” Hunter said. “I haven’t been shooting it too well lately, but I’m going to keep shooting. Seeing it go in, it really boosts my confidence.”

Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy added 13 points each and Devon Hall had 12 for the Cavaliers (13-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who ended a two-game losing streak in Cassell Coliseum.

The defensive effort, always a calling card for coach Tony Bennett’s team, was more impressive than the offensive balance.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 14 points to lead the Hokies (11-4, 0-2). Virginia Tech came into the game leading the nation in field goal percentage at .532 and among the leaders in 3-point percentage at .427, but they made only 17 of 47 shots and were just 2 of 12 from 3-point territory. Scoring leaders Ahmed Hill (15.6 ppg) and Justin Bibbs (14.6) finished with a combined eight points on 3-for-14 shooting.

“To hold a team like that, to really stifle them, it’s impressive, but you really don’t have time to sit back and say, `Wow,” Jerome said.

Unless, perhaps, you are the coach of the team that was stifled.

“I always give the credit to the opponent,” Hokies coach Buzz Williams said. “Twenty-three percent of the time we turned it over, which is in essence the same turnover rate we had (in a 68-56 loss) at Syracuse. Both defenses caused that.”

Virginia led 37-25 at halftime and expanded its lead throughout the second half. A 15-0 run that featured 3-pointers by Jerome, Nigel Johnson and Guy pushed the margin to 63-35 with 6:50 remaining. When Justin Robinson ended the run with a layup for the Hokies, he also ended a Virginia Tech scoring drought that lasted more than 6 minutes.

Virginia led throughout and used an 11-4 run late in the first half to open a 37-23 edge. Guy started it with a 3-pointer, Hall and Hunter both converted offensive rebounds and Jack Salt finished the flurry with a dunk.

BIG MOMENT

Bennett rarely begins his postgame remarks with an opening statement, but he made an exception and was beaming as he did it, sharing that he’d awarded walk-on junior Justice Bartley with a scholarship after the game.

“I got to do something that is one of the greatest joys as a coach,” he said. “He really embodies — we talk about being a servant in our program a lot — and it’s a walk-on that does all the little things. You should have seen the joy in his eyes and the excitement in the players’ eyes, so I’m on a high from that.”

Bartley, who got into the game when Bennett emptied the bench late, hit a 3-pointer and couldn’t wait to share the news with his parents.

“My mom’s definitely going to be crying,” he said. “I have a few siblings headed to college so this definitely helps out.”

BIG PICTURE

Virginia: The Cavaliers weren’t bothered by Virginia Tech’s game-long full-court press, committing just six turnovers. They also hit on 12 of 25 3-pointers with six players connecting at least once from beyond the arc.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies averaged better than 90 points during the nonconference portion of their schedule, but have found offense more difficult to come by since ACC play started. They managed just 56 points in a 12-point loss to Syracuse in their league opener before facing Virginia, one of the nation’s top defensive teams.

UP NEXT

Virginia returns home to face No. 12 North Carolina on Saturday.

The Hokies are at home again, facing Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Arizona lands Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther

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Arizona landed a key addition for its frontcourt on Wednesday as Pitt transfer forward Ryan Luther pledged to the Wildcats.

The 6-foot-9 Luther is expected to receive a hardship waiver that would give him immediate eligibility, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com, as Arizona gets some much-needed help up front.

Playing in 10 games last season before a stress reaction in his right foot ended the season, Luther averaged 12.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game for the Panthers. In his final game of the season, Luther went for 13 points and 12 rebounds in a Pitt loss to West Virginia. Luther shot 45 percent from the field and is a noted perimeter threat as he was 38 percent from behind the three-point line.

Luther hasn’t logged heavy minutes as a contributor through a full season. Mostly a role player at Pitt until last season, Luther was the team’s most productive player when he was on the floor. But that production also didn’t come during ACC play and through the course of a full season.

Thankfully at a program like Arizona, Luther should have a bit more help around him. He could be a nice addition to the Wildcats, particularly if he rebounds and spaces the floor in the frontcourt as he did at Pitt. Arizona needed someone like Luther to provide more stability after losing players like Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic.

In the last few weeks, Arizona has rebounded nicely to land three commitments for next season — including freshmen Devonaire Doutrive and Omar Thielemans. The group isn’t as heralded as some past Arizona recruiting efforts. Given where the Wildcats were in recruiting a few weeks ago, however, this isn’t a bad turnaround.

TCU extends Jamie Dixon’s contract by two more years

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TCU has given head coach Jamie Dixon a two-year contract extension through the 2023-24 season, according to a release from the school.

Dixon took the Horned Frogs to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years this season as he’s done a great job of turning around his alma mater. The release also notes that TCU had the highest average attendance in program history this season. Fans are also taking notice of a revitalized team.

With back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason appearances, Dixon and TCU have a lot of positive momentum going on right now. The two-year extension for Dixon should help a bit in recruiting when it comes to overall stability, as well, as he’s been able to attract some quality talent so far.

Report: Kevin Ollie claims UConn violated rights with firing

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Fired former UConn head coach Kevin Ollie is claiming that the school violated his constitutional rights during his departure.

Ollie sent a letter to UConn school president Susan Herbst which was obtained by ESPN’s Myron Medcalf in a report released on Wednesday. Ollie’s lawyers are claiming the school proceeded with his firing before giving Ollie a proper chance to contest his termination — which was guaranteed in his contract and also the collective bargaining agreement with the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors. Ollie was fired, with cause, in late March as the school mentioned an NCAA inquiry as the reason why. According to Medcalf’s report, the NCAA has not sent a notice of allegations to the school.

Ollie’s union membership includes thousands of faculty members around the country as the collective bargaining agreement demands a hearing process before any employee can be terminated for allegations of serious misconduct. Ollie claims he didn’t receive a letter he was supposed to get to begin the termination process.

“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” said the letter dated April 3.

“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

This letter to UConn likely begins a long legal battle to try to get an eight-figure payout back as Ollie is going to do everything he can to clear his name.

South Carolina’s Brian Bowen, still ineligible, to declare for draft

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Former Louisville forward and current South Carolina Gamecock Brian Bowen will declare for the NBA draft without signing with an agent as a safety measure in case the NCAA does not clear him to play in the 2018-19 season.

Bowen is the former top 25 prospect that was forced to leave the Louisville program after the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college hoops turned up evidence that his family had accepted the first payment of what was supposed to be a $100,000 fee to get him to be a Cardinal.

That investigation was ultimately what got Rick Pitino fired.

“I just felt that it was the right decision,” Bowen told ESPN. “My goal is still to play college basketball, but I felt as though it makes sense to cover my bases.”

Bowen is in a tough spot right now.

On the one hand, he has already missed an entire season of college basketball and there is no guarantee that he will be cleared to play next season, if at all.

On the other hand, the fact that he has not played in a year and that he has not played against any collegiate level competition is one of the reasons that NBA front offices are going to be hesitant to draft him, and that’s not a good thing for a player that was considered a second round pick before he spent a year on the sidelines.

North Carolina’s Cam Johnson undergoes hip surgery

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For the second time in the last six months, North Carolina wing Cam Johnson has undergone the knife.

On Wednesday, North Carolina announced that Johnson underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his hip on Monday, and that he is expected to make a full recovery and return to school in time for the start of the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-9 Johnson was UNC’s third-leading scorer a season ago, averaging 12.4 points while shooting 34.1 percent from three. He only played 26 games, however, after missing time due to a surgery to fix a torn meniscus.