Cavalier Corner

February 2019

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Page 16 of 31

FEBRUARY 2019 17 it's got great food. There's just a lot to like. I can't think of really anything bad about my experience." Given the way his redshirt third-year sea- son ended, Salt just wants the Cavaliers to have that postseason success they've been yearning for. And he's hopeful that this year's group can break through. "It would mean a lot to do that, obvi- ously," he said. "Especially for the coaches and the guys that have paved the way for us because we've been so close. "We've had great teams, great runs; last year we had a great team and not a good run. But I feel like with this group of guys and if we just play each one game by game, I'm very excited for what's to come in the future." If that happens, you can bet there will have been plenty of Salt screens that opened things up. "Not many guards can get around him," Hunter said. "So, usually when you come off of Jack's screens you'll have space to shoot or to make a play." Heading into the third week of January, there was little doubt that Virginia was once again among the nation's best squads. As the final unbeaten team in the country, UVA put together another impressive start to the season and is poised to make more noise in the ACC again this year. Having won their first 16 games — their best start since going 19‑0 to open the 2014‑15 season — and being ranked among the best on both offense and defense nationally, the Wahoos head deeper into league play boasting one of the most formi‑ dable rosters in the conference. Dating back to last year, they put together a 13‑game road winning streak (including 12 straight against ACC foes) that was snapped in the 72‑70 loss at Duke Jan. 19. According to ESPN, the UVA‑Duke showdown tied for the highest‑rated college basketball game on the network in five years. It pitted the Associated Press poll's top team (Duke) against the USA Today Coaches Poll's top team (Virginia) for only the fourth time ever. Even with the loss, the Cavaliers (17‑1 overall, 5‑1 ACC as of Jan. 25) were 4‑1 against ranked teams this year and had already blown out two top‑10 squads in Florida State and Virginia Tech (both of which were ranked No. 9 at the time of those games). Led by the trio of third‑year guard Kyle Guy (a team‑best 15.0 points per game and 45.4‑percent shooting from three‑point territory), redshirt second‑year forward De'Andre Hunter (14.4 points and 5.3 boards per contest) and third‑year guard Ty Je‑ rome (13.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per night) — all former four‑star recruits in the class of 2016 — the Cavaliers are tough to score on and tough to stop. According to the analytics website, Virginia was the No. 1 team in the country in adjusted efficiency margin (the difference between a team's offensive and defensive efficiency) as of Jan. 23. The Cavaliers checked in at No. 2 in adjusted defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions a team would have allowed against the average Division I offense) and No. 4 in adjusted offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions a team would have against the average Division I defense). The addition of third‑year Braxton Key, a transfer forward from Alabama, has also been important. He really came on the first six games of ACC play, and was averaging 9.7 points and a team‑high 6.2 rebounds per game in league action. The other big storyline for UVA early in the season was the play of first‑year point guard Kihei Clark. The California native had worked his way into the starting lineup before breaking a bone in his left wrist in the 83‑45 win over Morgan State Dec. 3. But despite having surgery during the exam break, he didn't miss a game and now out of the cast he has already shown his importance for the Hoos. Coming out of its top‑10 gauntlet against Tech and Duke, things appeared to ease up a bit for the Cavaliers. After dis‑ patching Wake Forest 68‑45 Jan. 22, Virginia was set to travel to Notre Dame Jan. 26 and North Carolina State Jan. 29. After returning home to host Miami Feb. 2, the Wahoos will get a full week off before they get round two against the Blue Devils at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 in a game that ESPN2 will televise nationally. — Brad Franklin WAHOOS OFF TO ANOTHER GREAT START During Virginia's 17-1 start, third-year guard Kyle Guy paced the team with 15.0 points per game while leading the ACC in both three-point shooting (45.4) and three-pointers per game (3.0). PHOTO BY MATT RILEY/COURTESY UVA

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