With the graduation of steady point guard London Perrantes and the transfer of three others, Virginia knew heading into the season that it had a bit of a rebuilding project ahead for a club that that won 23 games a season ago and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. A pair of freshmen stepped forward Monday against Austin Peay, and the Cavaliers will see if De’Andre Hunter and Jay Huff can keep the mojo flowing when they visit unbeaten VCU on Thursday.
The 6-7, 222-pound Hunter, who played 10 minutes Friday in Virginia’s season-opening win over UNC Greensboro, made all three of his shots from the floor, including a 3-pointer, and scored 13 points in 21 minutes in a 93-49 victory over the Governors. The 7-1, 230-pound Huff, who did not play in the opener, hit his first six shots - all in the first half - and finished with 16 points, four rebounds, five blocks and two assists in 24 minutes. “I love to see our young guys be able to get more opportunities and be successful when they’re doing it,” senior guard Devon Hall told reporters after scoring a career-high 19 points. Despite losing four starters from a 26-9 team that made the NCAA Tournament, first-year coach Mike Rhoades has guided VCU to double-digit wins over Grambling and North Florida.
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ABOUT VIRGINIA (2-0): Hall, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds last season, leads the team in scoring at 16 points per outing and is tied for the team lead in minutes per game at 27. Sophomore guard Kyle Guy is chipping in 15 points per game. The Cavaliers, who led the country in scoring defense (56.4) and were 14th in opponent field-goal percentage (39.8 percent) last season, has surrendered 48.5 points per game on 34.7 percent shooting in the two wins to open the season.
ABOUT VCU (2-0): The Rams, who join Kansas as the only teams in the country to have won 24 games each of the last seven seasons, beat North Florida 95-85 on Monday led by Justin Tilman’s 27 points on 13-of-17 shooting. The 6-7 senior is averaging 20.5 points and nine boards in just 20.5 minutes through the first two contests. Khris Lane, a graduate transfer from Longwood, is averaging 14 points and six rebounds while senior Jonathan Williams, who has started 30 games during his career, is averaging 12.5 points, 6.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds.
1. Virginia leads the series 11-2, including a 74-57 victory in the last meeting in Richmond on Dec. 6, 2014.
2. Rhoades, an assistant on the Rams’ 2011 Final Four team and the head coach at Rice last season, came back after Will Wade left for the LSU job.
3. Hall surpassed his previous career high of 18 points in the win over Austin Peay.
PREDICTION: Virginia 62, VCU 58