No. 25 Virginia is off to a faster start this season entering the NIT Tip-Off semifinal Thursday against Vanderbilt in Brooklyn, N.Y., and not just based on the Cavaliers winning their first four games. Traditionally one of the nation’s slowest teams offensively, Virginia is averaging 76 points per game, 10 points more than its average in 2016-17 – fueled by Kyle Guy’s 18 points per game – and its typical tough defense once again is among the nation’s best.
“The coaches just told me to be confident and stay ready, and that’s what I tried to do,” Guy told reporters after Virginia topped Monmouth 73-53 on Sunday. Vanderbilt has split its first four games of the season, falling 93-89 in overtime Sunday to No. 10 USC in a game where it led by 10 points midway through the second half. The Commodores’ top three scorers combined to shoot 13-for-35 from 3-point range in losses to Belmont and USC. “There are definitely things we could learn, positives we could take from it,” Vanderbilt guard/forward Matthew Fisher-Davis told the media afterward. “But losing isn’t satisfying.”
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPNU
ABOUT VIRGINIA (4-0): Guy is shooting 9-of-18 from 3-point range, making five in Friday’s 76-67 victory at VCU, and is 15-of-17 from the free-throw line. De’Andre Hunter scored a career-high 23 points in Sunday’s victory as the Cavaliers shot 52.2 percent from the field, moving to 4-0 for the second consecutive season. One season after leading the nation in scoring defense (56.4), the Cavaliers have limited their four opponents to 54.3 points per contest.
ABOUT VANDERBILT (2-2): Fisher-Davis finished with 31 points in Sunday’s loss, hitting 6-of-13 attempts from 3-point range. Fisher-Davis leads the Commodores in scoring at 18 points per game, followed by Riley LaChance (14.8) and Jeff Roberson (13.3 points, 10 rebounds). Vanderbilt, which led the SEC in 3-point shooting last season, is hitting 34.4 percent of its shots from beyond the arc through four games.
1. Fisher-Davis pulled down 11 rebounds Sunday, Vanderbilt’s first player to score 30-plus points and record 10-plus rebounds in the same game since 2009.
2. Virginia has led the nation in scoring defense in three of the last four seasons.
3. Thursday’s winner faces either Rhode Island or Seton Hall on Friday.
PREDICTION: Virginia 63, Vanderbilt 61