CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Monmouth needed only a few minutes into the game for it to realize the kind of opponent it was up against. Or better put, the kind of player it was going against.
Behind a pace-setting, 23 point, eight-rebound performance by redshirt-freshman Deandre Hunter, Virginia (4-0) found the right mixing of players to pull away from the Hawks, 73-53, at John Paul Jones Arena before 13,427.
Hunter, after receiving hardly any looks against Virginia Commonwealth Friday, saw an opportunity to jumpstart the Cavalier offense down 15-10 with 11:38 to go in the half.
“I’d say it was my confidence,” said Hunter of this performance being different from his recent ones. “Last few games, I felt I hadn’t been playing my game as best as I could. Coaches just told me to be confident and stay ready and that’s what I tried to do.”
Hunter went on his own 10-0 run to put Virginia up 20-15 with eight minutes before halftime and the Cavaliers led the rest of the way. Hunter finished with 15 first-half points.
“I told you guys from the get-go, you were going to see flashes from Deandre and Jay (Huff),” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “You saw a nice flash, it’s about now, can we get consistent and keep up with the pace of the game.”
Monmouth head coach, King Rice, said of Hunter: “Man, I didn’t know he was that good. He’s just good. He kept getting to his spots and scoring. Our kids were in front of him. It wasn’t like he was wide open.”
With Hunter’s work at the forefront, the Cavaliers’ 13-0 run over the course of four minutes built an insurmountable, 39-21 halftime lead.
For Monmouth (2-2), gaining the opportunity, according to Rice, to play a “big time program” will be the greatest result of its first-ever visit to Charlottesville.
The Hawks struggled shooting against the Cavs’ pack-line defense, as most of its shots were contested, resulting in a 33 percent shooting effort for the afternoon. Two players reached double figures – Louie Pillari led with 14 – with the whole team going 6-of-21 shooting beyond the 3-point arc.
“We got shown all of our warts, and that’s what Virginia does to you. He’s such a disciplined coach,” Rice said of Bennett. “When you’re watching his team’s play, you see it, but you don’t really see it until you’re out there with your kids.”
The depth and size of Virginia’s lineup were accentuated with a 30-16 scoring advantage inside the paint and a bench that outscored Monmouth’s 44-27.
Kyle Guy added 13 points to Virginia’s point total, while Mamadi Diakite finished with 10 alongside six rebounds. UVa shot 52 percent from the field.
Monmouth will face a diverse group of teams before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, facing three Ivy League opponents and a top-10 Kentucky team in the next month.
Escaping potential early season scares from Virginia Commonwealth and Monmouth, the youthful Cavaliers will continue to learn how to mix its breadth of talent.
Virginia had nine players who saw at least 10 minutes of action.
Asked if he feels like opponents are treating him differently after his breakout, true-freshman season, Kyle Guy said, “I think there’s more of a mark on my back this year. Just being able to shoot it and score a little bit last year – that’s where my pump fake is helping so much and being able to put it on the floor and get to the basket; I think that helps a lot – so yeah, I would say so.”
Monmouth will continue its southern swing of opponents, next heading to face UNC-Asheville Wednesday.
The Cavaliers will travel to New York and face Vanderbilt on Thanksgiving Day as part of the NIT Season Tip-off.
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