Gardner-Webb head coach Tim Craft hasn’t spent the last few years living under a rock, so he’s well aware of how stingy the Virginia men’s basketball team is on defense. He also thinks the Cavaliers don’t get enough credit on the offensive end.
“They really grind the clock down, and they make you play for long periods of time,” Craft said. “They’re really sharp with their execution, whether they’re running their move blocker, pin downs and flares and constant motion and screening, and they do it with really good players.”
Craft touched on Virginia’s big three: Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter and Kyle Guy. He began with Jerome, referring to him as the “head of the snake.”
“He can play in pick-and-roll or he’s coming off those down screens, where he gets just a little bit of an angle on a closeout,” Craft said. “Now, he gets into the paint where he can make jumpers in that mid-range area, make floaters, draw the defense in and dump it off to the post players or spray it out to the shooters for threes. He can do it in a lot of different ways.”
Hunter has the attention of the two Bulldogs most likely to draw him as a defensive assignment — 6-foot-5 freshman Jose Perez and 6-6 forward DJ Laster.
“To me, he’s going to be a tough matchup all night, and I just have to be as physical with him as possible and see what the refs let go and what they don’t,” Perez said.
“He’s a great player, but we just want to compete at the highest level and give him all we’ve got,” Laster added.
Hunter, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, is the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer with 15.1 points a night, and he leads the team with five rebounds a game. He’s also second on the roster with a .457 3-point percentage.
“He’s a monster to defend. He’s so good inside and out, really versatile,” Craft said. “Both of those guys [Perez and Laster] will see him at times. We’ll try to limit his ability to catch it close to the basket and then give whoever’s on him a lot of help.”
Guy leads Virginia at 15.6 points a game, 106 made 3-pointers and .463 3-point percentage. Jerome has struggled offensively as of late, but he still averages 13 points a night and has 166 assists to his credit.
“Jerome can score and facilitate, he has size, he can shoot and he can score inside,” Craft said. “Hunter’s had an amazing year and can do so many things, and then Guy can make shots at such a high level.”