Sunday evening it was Devon Hall’s turn. The fifth-year Virginia senior went off for 25 points in the Cavaliers victory against North Carolina State.
Five different Cavs — Hall, Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Nigel Johnson and De’Andre Hunter — have scored at least 22 points in a game this season. A year ago, only London Perrantes hit that mark in the regular season (Marial Shayok scored 23 against current Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts’ UNC Wilmington squad in the NCAA Tournament).
That’s a dramatic shift. Virginia has gone from a team that could barely score if Perrantes was having an off night to one in which seven of the eight rotation players are capable of hurting the opposition on offense.
How does that kind of turnaround happen?
First of all, it’s a good reminder that gameday is but a small fraction of the work the coaching staff puts in. Guy has become a much more consistent thanks to an improved ability to score in different ways, while Jerome has clearly put in work developing remarkably deep range.
The roster is also improved. When Shayok and Darius Thompson transferred out it opened for Johnson and Hunter. Johnson, who has also played at both Kansas State and Rutgers, has always been an explosive, if inconsistent scorer. Hunter is still learning as a redshirt freshman, but with his length and athleticism one doesn’t need a crystal ball to see more 20-plus point games in his future.
But the most significant difference might be Hall. He’s certainly improved from last season, averaging nearly 13 points per game, but it’s fair to wonder if he shouldn’t have been more of a focal point last season.
Hall wound up being the Cavs’ second-leading scorer, but it was clear from the moment Malcolm Brogdon’s final Virginia game ended it was Perrantes’ team. In hindsight, it’s easy to think Virginia might have been better off with the offense more focused on getting looks for Hall and/or the Virginia Beach native being more assertive himself.
Whatever the reasons, this UVA team is certainly more comfortable sharing the wealth and letting whomever has the hot hand on a particular night have at it.
This team has a similar feel to 2013-14, another season when Virginia went from unranked and rose to the Top 3. That team featured four future NBA guards in the backcourt and several players who could torch defenses on a given night.
Virginia may or may not have the same number of future pros in the lineup, but that kind of dynamic led the Cavaliers to regular season and ACC Tournament titles.
They are beginning to look like a team that could do it again.