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Drama-Filled ACC Opener Ends Happily for 'Hoos

Ty Jerome

Dec. 30, 2017

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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- ACC men's basketball returned to John Paul Jones Arena on Saturday afternoon, and ninth-ranked Virginia, with its fans in full voice, battled to a 59-58 victory over Boston College.

"Great environment," BC head coach Jim Christian said. "Great crowd."

Wild ending.

With 3.1 seconds left and the Cavaliers leading by a single point, Boston College inbounded the ball from the baseline next to its basket. Virginia forward Isaiah Wilkins came up with what appeared to be a game-ending steal, and the crowd of 14,538 roared with joy and relief.

"Then the chaos happened," UVA sophomore Ty Jerome said.

One of the three officials on the court had mistakenly started the clock too early, and confusion reigned as the game was stopped with 2.1 seconds showing. After a lengthy break, during which the home fans grew increasingly exasperated, the officiating crew gave Christian and his UVA counterpart, Tony Bennett, an explanation, and BC was awarded a do-over, again earning the crowd's displeasure.

 

 

The Eagles were allowed to inbound the ball from the same spot, again with 3.1 seconds left.

"It's tough," Jerome said. "After the first one the crowd's going crazy, you're going crazy, and then the ref comes and says the clock didn't start on time. But that's where our coaching staff does a great job of keeping us focused."

This time the inbounds pass went to BC big man Nik Popovic, who started to drive toward the basket and was called for an offensive foul after pushing off UVA center Jack Salt with 1.2 seconds to play. The Cavaliers (12-1 overall) then ran out the clock to capture their ACC opener for the ninth time in Bennett's nine seasons as their head coach.

"It was crazy, but Coach kept us calm," Salt said. "We were all calm. He said, `Just defend again. It's what we do.' "

Christian said: "Give them full credit. They're such a good defensive team in those situations. They're so well-schooled, so well-taught. It's hard to get a clean, clean look."

On an afternoon when Jerome Robinson, a 6-6 junior, scored 29 points for the Eagles (10-4 overall, 1-1 ACC), the Wahoos' point guard was even more productive. Jerome, a 6-5 sophomore, scored 31 points -- 14 more than his previous career high. He hit 6 of 9 shots from 3-point range and 11 of 17 overall.

"Ty's offensive performance carried us," Bennett said after his 200th win with the Cavaliers.

Jerome's marksmanship "was not a new sight for us, by any means," said his classmate Kyle Guy, who added 11 points Saturday. Jerome hit big shots as a freshman, and he's known for burying long 3-pointers in practice.

Of his tour de force against BC, Jerome said, "You can't it do without good teammates, and I think that's one thing we have. That's what makes this team a special team on and off the court. There's no jealousy here, if it's Kyle, if it's [Devon Hall] if it's Nigel [Johnson], if it's myself, Isaiah or De'Andre [Hunter], or whoever it is, we're all happy for them."

Jerome became the first UVA player since Joe Harris to score at least 30 points in a game. Harris, now with the Brooklyn Nets, scored 36 in a win over Duke at JPJ on Feb. 28, 2013.

"He had 31, and it looked to me like 20 of them came late clock, with the shot clock at six [seconds] or five," Christian said. "We did a bad job containing him. Guy is such an issue, because you have to be on him so tight coming off of all the screens, that maybe [Jerome] had some space to drive and took advantage of it. He played a great game."

A key reserve in 2016-17, Jerome succeeded London Perrantes as the Cavaliers' No. 1 point guard this season. He struggled at times during non-conference play, but Jerome has been on a tear of late. In his past three games, he's made 21 of 32 shots from the floor.

"I keep getting this question," Jerome said, "and I keep answering it the same way. My confidence never wavers, so it is not really a relief. I expect [shots] to fall. I'm going to keep being aggressive no matter what."

Fifth-year senior Devon Hall, who came in as the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer (12.4), missed all six of his field-goal attempts Saturday and scored only one point. Guy, Virginia's leading scorer this season, was 4 for 14 from the floor.

The `Hoos needed a big game from Jerome, and "I think he sensed it," Bennett said. "One of his greatest attributes is his feel and mind for the game, and I think he just knew it ... I think Ty just sensed, `I'm feeling good and I've got to take this over in some ways.' But I don't feel like he forced any shots."

Christian said Jerome's "ability to drive the ball off the bounce was not something that I had seen that much of from him, but he was terrific at it tonight, so I'm sure we'll see a lot more of it. But he was unbelievably confident, and he took big shots."

Jerome also grabbed five rebounds. By the far the biggest of those boards came with 20 seconds left, after a missed 3-point attempt by Wilkins with Virginia up 59-58.

"I was supposed to get back on defense," Jerome said, smiling. "If I don't get back, I'm probably in trouble [with the coaches], but I just saw the ball come right off the rim, and I was right there, just in the right spot at the right time."

His offensive rebound extended a possession that ended when Hall missed the front end of a one-on-one with 14 seconds left. At the other end, Boston College guard Ky Bowman drove for what might have been the go-ahead basket, but the 6-7 Wilkins swatted the shot out of bounds with 3.1 seconds to play.

"I was trying to keep it inbounds, so the game would be over with," Wilkins said.

"I was nervous," said the 6-2 Guy, "because if he did not block it, I was boxing out [BC's] center, and that wasn't going to go well."

Wilkins finished with four blocks, two assists, one steal, eight points and a career-high 14 rebounds.

"He gives you everything he has," Bennett said. "All of our guys work hard, but he has something innate or something inside of him ... He's a great anticipator. And that's what great defenders are. They don't react, they anticipate. And he's continuous. Those are the hardest things to teach young guys coming in from high school -- Can you anticipate defensively and can you be continuous? -- and he has both of them at the highest level."

TRIPLE TROUBLE: In Robinson, Jordan Chatman and Ky Bowman, each of whom played 40 minutes against UVA, Boston College have one of the nation's top backcourts.

In the Eagles' upset of then-No. 1 Duke on Dec. 9, they combined for 76 points. They combined for 52 on Saturday.

Robinson scored 29 and Chatman had 18, but Bowman finished with only five points on 2-for-10 shooting, in part because of the 6-5 Hall's tenacious defense.

"Devon didn't have a great stat line offensively, but he guarded hard," Bennett said.

Robinson scored BC's final points, hitting a contested trey to make it 59-58 with 43.1 seconds to play. "He's a big-time player," Guy said.

Chatman was 4 for 5 from beyond the arc and 4 for 4 from the line. Had Bowman, who came in averaging team-high 16.8 points per game, torched the Cavaliers, too, BC might have collected another victory over a top-10 opponent. But defense once again carried the day for UVA.

"I thought that Ky had to work for everything he got, and that's the best you can do with players like that," Bennett said.

TIGHT ROTATION: Each of Virginia's starters played at least 29 minutes Saturday. Bennett used only three reserves: fifth-year senior Nigel Johnson, redshirt sophomore Mamadi Diakite and redshirt freshman De'Andre Hunter, and they were a combined 1 for 11 from the floor.

Johnson came in averaging 6.9 points per game, Diakite 6.6 and Hunter 6.5.

"Our bench didn't play as well today," Bennett said.

WHAT'S NEXT? Virginia's first game of 2018 comes Wednesday night in Blacksburg. At 9 o'clock, in a game to be shown on the ACC Network, UVA meets Virginia Tech (11-2) at Cassell Coliseum.

The Hokies open ACC play Sunday night at Syracuse (11-2).

In 2015-16 and again in 2016-17, UVA and Tech split their two regular-season meetings, with each winning at home. In another game with some bizarre moments, the Hokies edged the Cavaliers 80-78 in two overtimes last season in Blacksburg.

"We know what it's like in that environment, those of us who've played in there," Bennett said of the Hokies. "They're good. You saw how well they played against Kentucky [on Dec. 16]."

On playing in Cassell Coliseum, Jerome said, "I think it's fun. I love tough environments. I loved VCU. I liked West Virginia a lot. I love those places. Nothing compares to JPJ, especially on a day like today, but I love tough environments."

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Jeff White

Director of News Content

jwhite@virginia.edu

A 1985 graduate of UVA, White worked at the Richmond Times-Dispatch until July 2009. He was honored six times as the state's Sportswriter of the Year.

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