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Guy’s 22 points push No. 3 Virginia past Syracuse 68-61

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Guy scored 22 points, De’Andre Hunter added 15 and No. 3 Virginia beat Syracuse 68-61 on Tuesday night.

Guy made five 3-pointers for Virginia (15-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). The Cavaliers attempted a season-high 27 3s and made nine. Devon Hall added 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for Virginia.

Frank Howard scored 18 points to lead the Orange (12-5, 1-3). Oshae Brissett added 16 points and Paschal Chukwu scored nine points and grabbed 16 rebounds, but the Orange shot under 40 percent against the nation’s top scoring defense and managed just three assists on 23 baskets.

Virginia led 29-26 at halftime and pushed the lead to 44-35 when Ty Jerome made three 3-pointers in a span of two minutes and Guy made his fourth with 12:17 left. Virginia eventually led by as many as 14 and won its seventh in a row.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange essentially use only six players, and three of them — Tyus Battle (19.5), Howard (15.4) and Brissett (15.2) — account for most of the scoring. Seven-foot-2 Chukwu averages 5.5 points but gets most of his scoring opportunities from collecting offensive rebounds.

Virginia: The Cavaliers’ offensive options continue to expand. Hunter scored eight points in a span of three minutes after checking in during the first half. Jerome missed his first five attempts from 3-point range, then made three in a row in a span of just over two minutes early in the second half.

UP NEXT

The Orange remain on the road against a ranked team as they face No. 23 Florida State on Saturday.

Virginia finishes a three-game home-stand as it hosts North Carolina State on Sunday.

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More AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25

No. 8 Virginia takes down No. 12 North Carolina

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Virginia continued its hot week by running past No. 12 North Carolina for a 61-49 ACC home win on Saturday. The No. 8 Cavaliers earned their sixth straight win and fifth consecutive home win against the Tar Heels with the win — which is easily their biggest of the season.

Senior guard Devon Hall paced Virginia with 16 points while DeAndre Hunter added 10 points as the Cavalier defense held North Carolina to under 50 points in back-to-back seasons.

Joel Berry II led North Carolina with 17 points as the Tar Heels never seemed to get going in dropping their second consecutive ACC games.

Here are three takeaways from this one

1. Virginia proved they’re a potential top-tier team after this week’s solid play

Entering the 2017-18 season, NBCSports.com ranked West Virginia in our preseason top 25. Virginia Tech just missed our cut.

We had Virginia picked to finish No. 6 in the ACC. With multiple top-five teams like Arizona State and Xavier losing this week, there’s a very real chance Virginia will be ranked No. 6 in the country next week.

I don’t normally feel inclined to speak on behalf of my colleagues. I’ll say it for all of us: we really screwed up in our projection of Virginia.  The Cavaliers have proven themselves to be pretty good. This week has been their biggest stretch of the season.

After blowing out in-state rival Virginia Tech on the road earlier this week, Virginia soundly outplayed North Carolina on Saturday, leading most of the game and dictating the methodical tempo that suits them so well. Helpless against Virginia’s No. 1-ranked defense (on KenPom), North Carolina’s offense looked out of sync.

Offensively, the Cavaliers created enough buckets off of turnovers — including two crowd-pleasing breakaway dunks off of steals in the first half — and had a balanced effort to still thoroughly beat the Tar Heels with only two double-figure scorers.

Before this week, Virginia had beaten Wisconsin, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Now, after convincing wins against back-to-back solid opponents, it’s time to take Virginia more seriously.

2. North Carolina will be fine despite back-to-back losses

Things have been a bit concerning in Chapel Hill recently. Not only has North Carolina dropped back-to-back ACC road games, but the Tar Heels also had to claw back to get past Wake Forest the game before that.

We’ve expressed a few times in the past that North Carolina is still trying to find its identity in the wake of last season’s national championship team. Senior point guard Joel Berry II is still the team’s heart-and-soul but junior Luke Maye (six points on 2-for-10 shooting) has cooled off a bit recently and a consistent third scorer still needs to emerge.

Thankfully for North Carolina, they have some time to figure this out. Only playing No. 25 Clemson as a ranked opponent until a game against Duke on Feb. 8, the Tar Heels don’t have a lot of top-flight competition to face over the next week weeks.

On the road, they get Bonzie Colson-less Notre Dame, Clemson and Virginia Tech. At home, North Carolina has Georgia Tech, Clemson, N.C. State, Pitt and Boston College. That’s a winnable group of games (while allowing for tweaks in the rotation) before a home stretch that includes two against Duke, Miami and road games at Louisville and Syracuse.

Things don’t look great for North Carolina right now. They also have to integrate Cameron Johnson more into the lineup after only five games so this team still has plenty of room to get better.

North Carolina doesn’t look like a great team right now. It also wouldn’t be smart to count them out.

3. Virginia has to improve on offense to be among the elites but there’s still time

One of the intriguing things about Virginia is how much this team can grow by the end of the season. Since so many of the members of this rotation are in new roles, there has been an adjustment period on the offensive end at times this season.

Sophomore Kyle Guy is living up to his former McDonald’s All-American status by leading the Cavaliers in scoring but he can still get better as the season goes on — particularly if others also step up and alleviate the attention that defenses are giving him.

Other players in the rotation like point guard Ty Jerome, wing De’Andre Hunter and big man Mamadi Diakite are also still in their first years of college basketball with room to grow. Senior Nigel Johnson is another new piece as a grad transfer still figuring out his role.

Already with the No. 1 defense in the country, if Virginia continues to get better on offense then their ceiling continues to expand. A high-floor team with the potential to get knocked out of a tournament-style setting on a cold-shooting day, Virginia enhances their chances of advancing deep into March with a more developed offensive attack.

I mean, have you seen Duke’s offense? At some point, the Cavaliers are going to have to score points. They’re also as effective as any team in the country at keeping games slow and at their tempo. But their offense still has to get better for the Cavaliers to be an elite team.

There’s still a few months left before March and a lot of time to get better. It’ll be fascinating to see if Virginia can improve its offense to hang with some of the big boys.

No. 13 Virginia beats Savannah State 78-47

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Virginia got a relatively easy victory. Its bench players saw some valuable playing time. And Savannah State went home with a big check.

Everything went according to plan Tuesday night at John Paul Jones Arena.

Sophomore guard Ty Jerome scored a career-high 17 points, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts, as No. 13 Virginia breezed through its next-to-last non-conference tuneup, topping Savannah State 78-47.

“It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Savannah State or a Top 5 team in the country,” Jerome said. “If we’re on the road or at home. It’s just a matter of, whenever you’re on the court, executing, executing every play.”

The Tigers, who suffered their sixth loss to a ranked team this season, earned between $80,000 and $90,000 for the game, coach Horace Broadnax said.

“We don’t need to be in the ACC,” he said laughing. “I’m glad that’s our last game (against) the ACC. So we’re going to move on to, I guess, to the Big Ten and play Michigan State.”

Virginia got 10 points and five rebounds from junior center Jack Salt as the Cavaliers built a 42-21 halftime lead and never looked back.

Savannah State, which has attempted the most 3-pointers in the nation, missed its first nine shots from beyond the arc. The Tigers finished 11 for 37 on 3-pointers. It got a team-high 22 points from junior forward John Grant.

“You watch them and see, they can really hit 3s quickly,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You have to be back in transition and quick to close out.”

Against the nation’s top scoring defense, Savannah State didn’t score its first points until 4:43 into the game and didn’t hit its first 3-pointer until there was 5:47 left in the first half.

“We have a small window to compete against these guys,” Broadnax said. “And if we don’t step through that window early, it can get out of hand and they can control the game from there.”

BIG PICTURE

Savannah State: The Tigers struggle to win games in the MEAC so competing against Power 5 foes like the ACC’s Virginia is a tall order. This was Savannah State’s fifth game against a Power 5 opponent. They have lost them all by at least 30 points.

Virginia: The Cavaliers are supposed to handle teams like this and, outside of matchups with West Virginia and maybe VCU and Wisconsin, the non-conference schedule hasn’t tested Virginia much. Things figure to change when Virginia gets to ACC play in two weeks.

UP NEXT

Savannah State has one more matchup with a ranked, Power 5 team when it plays at No. 2 Michigan State on New Year’s Eve.

Virginia wraps up non-conference play when it hosts Hampton on Friday night.

Jevon Carter, Lamont West lead No. 18 West Virginia past No. 15 Virginia

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For the second consecutive season No. 18 West Virginia managed to beat No. 15 Virginia despite having to play at a tempo slower than what they prefer, this time beating the Cavaliers 68-61 in Morgantown. West Virginia (8-1) was led offensively by guards Jevon Carter and Lamont West, who combined to score 45 points with Daxter Miles Jr. adding 12.

Devon Hall scored 19 and Kyle Guy 18 for Virginia (8-1), which suffered its first loss of the season. Here are four takeaways from West Virginia’s eighth win of the season, a result that will look quite good on the Mountaineers’ résumé moving forward.

1. While we know plenty about Jevon Carter, Lamont West’s progression will be critical for the Mountaineers moving forward.

After averaging 5.6 points and 1.8 rebounds per game off the bench as a redshirt freshman, West is of far greater importance to the Mountaineer attack this season. The 6-foot-8 wing entered Tuesday’s game averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game, shooting just 37.7 percent from the field and 27.5 percent from three. West outperformed those numbers in a big way against Virginia, as his 22 points were scored on 7-for-13 shooting from the field (4-for-9 3PT) and a 4-for-4 night from the foul line.

Add in his four rebounds, and West put forth what was arguably the best performance of his WVU career at just the right time. He did tally 22 points and eight boards in a blowout win over Long Beach State last month, but putting up good numbers against a team the caliber of Virginia is an entirely different deal. The key for West now: consistency. That will especially be important on nights in which the Mountaineer defense isn’t forcing a high number of live-ball turnovers.

2. Kyle Guy essentially experienced two different games, and Virginia can’t afford that.

The 6-foot-3 junior finished the game with 18 points, but things did not come easy for Guy with Daxter Miles Jr. pestering him for much of the night. Guy missed all five of his shot attempts in the the first half, and Guy was scoreless until the 13:53 mark of the second half when he made his first three-pointer. That shot was all Guy needed to get going, as he would make his next four three-point attempts and finish the half 6-for-9 from deep.

Virginia had enough offense to hang around throughout, with West Virginia’s combination of shot-making and stout half-court defense making the difference down the stretch. But where would that game have been for Virginia with a more effective Guy in the first half? A three-point halftime deficit could have been flipped, giving the Cavaliers the buffer needed to pick up the win.

Guy’s been excellent throughout this season; many scorers will have a hard time scoring points against West Virginia. Virginia can’t afford for him to be a “streak” scorer, in large part to the lack of consistent offensive options if Guy isn’t knocking down shots.

3. There aren’t many point guards in America I’d take before Jevon Carter.

There may be guards of higher acclaim when it comes to the NBA Draft boards, but there aren’t many who rate higher than Jevon Carter when it comes to the combination of skill, leadership and toughness. Carter’s fingerprints were all over this one, as in addition to scoring a game-high 23 points he also tallied ten rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

Carter played all 40 minutes for the Mountaineers and the effort never waned, and in him Bob Huggins has a senior floor general of high value. While others have stepped forward at various points to help out as West Virginia counts down the days until Esa Ahmad is eligible to return, Carter has been the constant. He’ll be in the conversation for Big 12 Player of the Year honors, and an All-American team nod will be worth discussing as well at this rate.

4. Virginia needs more consistent production from its front court moving forward.

The Cavaliers received good first-half minutes from Mamadi Diakite, who accounted for seven points and three rebounds off the bench. But outside of his 13 first-half minutes Virginia did not receive much in the way of production from its front court. Isaiah Wilkins finished the game with two points, five rebounds and two blocked shots, Jack Salt had more turnovers (three) than rebounds (two) or points (none), and Diakite would finish the game with nine points and five rebounds.

Kyle Guy and Devon Hall are going to lead the way offensively for Virginia, but the Cavaliers do not have much margin for error on that end of the court. Wilkins entered Tuesday averaging 8.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest, and his struggles Tuesday can also be attributed to the play of West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. But if Virginia is to contend with the expected contenders in the ACC, they’re going to need more consistent production from the bigs.

The Cavaliers won’t need the second coming of Ralph Sampson (that would be nice, though), but they’ll need more than what they received from the front court in Morgantown.

Virginia adds graduate transfer guard Nigel Johnson

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Virginia has landed a rotation player for next season with the addition of graduate transfer guard Nigel Johnson.

The 6-foot-1 Johnson played last season at Rutgers after starting his career at Kansas State. As a redshirt junior last season, Johnson averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 35 percent from three-point range.

A native of Ashburn, Virginia, Johnson is an experienced player who help offset the backcourt losses of senior London Perrantes and transfer Darius Thompson.

Johnson will need to improve his shooting percentages but he should have a little more balance around him on the Cavaliers.

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Perrantes leads No. 23 Virginia past Pitt, 67-42

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Virginia coach Tony Bennett waited after No. 23 Virginia’s 67-42 victory against Pittsburgh was over, and then waited again until London Perrantes had finished a postgame television interview before putting his arm around the point guard and walking off the court.

It was what Bennett’s father, Dick, did with him after his last college game, and seemed a fitting way to honor his lone senior.

“We’ve had so many special players, but he’s been the catalyst for what’s happened,” Bennett said of the guard from Los Angeles, who has started more games than anyone in Cavaliers history and helped transform the program into an annual national contender.

“That brought me great joy just to be able to do that,” Bennett said.

Perrantes made his Senior Day special, too, by scoring 22 points and helping to foil the Panthers’ defensive game plan. He made four of Virginia’s 11 3-pointers, including two in succession late in the game before Bennett removed him to a standing ovation with 1:57 to play.

“Just knowing it’s not over is huge,” Perrantes said, “as long as I’ve got some more games to play with the team and coaching staff.”

Freshman Ty Jerome, the likely replacement as Virginia’s starting point guard next season, added three 3-pointers and 13 points as the Cavaliers (21-9, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third straight. They also avenged an 88-76 loss in overtime at Pittsburgh in January.

“Our No. 1 thing we talked about was taking away 3s,” first-year coach Kevin Stallings said after his team’s fourth consecutive loss. “They feed off of them, and we were not able to do that, obviously.”

When he was pulled from the game, Perrantes hugged his apprentice at midcourt before departing.

“I said, `It’s not yours yet. It’s not your program yet. I’ve still got some games left to play,”‘ Perrantes said he told Jerome.

Jerome has said repeatedly that he’s siphoned as much knowledge from Perrantes as he could.

“I only got to spend this year with him, but he’s been phenomenal on and off the court, especially with me and the relationship we’ve built in such a short amount of time,” Jerome said. “I’m going to miss him, but we still have more basketball to play.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, might not have much more to play this year.

Michael Young scored 14 points to lead Pittsburgh (15-16, 4-14), but the Panthers played the first 10 minutes without Young or Jamel Artis after both were late for a team function. When the team’s top two scorers finally checked in with 9:54 left in the half, Virginia led 19-2.

“We’re trying to establish a culture here of doing the right thing, being accountable and responsible,” Stallings said.

Pittsburgh missed 13 of its first 14 field goal attempts. It was the Panthers’ 12th consecutive road loss against a ranked opponent.

BIG PICTURE

Pittsburgh: The Panthers head into the ACC Tournament having lost four in a row, and of greater concern to Stallings might be the idea that Young (20.1 ppg) and Artis (18.9 ppg) have been their dominant offensive weapons, and both are seniors.

Virginia: The Cavaliers appear to have their swagger back, not only on defense, where they lead the nation in scoring defense, but on offense. Perrantes has emerged from a shooting drought and Jerome and fellow freshman Kyle Guy have played, and scored, more of late.

HE SAID IT

“I don’t think anybody wants to play us right now.” – Perrantes.

NUMBERS GAME

Virginia entered the game leading the nation in scoring defense (55.3 ppg), and during its winning streak, has held North Carolina State (55), No. 5 North Carolina (43) and Pittsburgh (42) to an average of 46.7 points. … The Cavaliers forced 14 turnovers and outscored the Panthers 27-0 off takeaways. Virginia turned it over just seven times. … The Cavaliers finished 11 for 22 on 3-pointers. Pitt was 4 for 20.

UP NEXT

Both teams will play next in the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

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