By Ken Cross
The No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers are known for a defensive mentality that permeates into frustrating nights for opposing offenses and that reputation tends to leave the skill sets of some of their offensive players ignored.
Red-shirt freshman De’Andre Hunter is becoming a huge part of Virginia’s offense as he cannot be ignored any longer. Hunter scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting while hitting both of his triples in Sunday night’s 59-49 win over Wake Forest. He hit two key three-point shots in a 12-1 run that allowed the Cavaliers to finally slam the door on the Deacons, who played Virginia tough for the entire 40 minutes.
“I think after that Virginia Tech game, the dimension that he has given to our offense has been significant,” said coach Tony Bennett, “You know we moved him, playing more four guards with him and he is getting some good matchups.”
Hunter upped his game immeasurably at the beginning of the ACC slate although he struggled in the opener at Boston College. He came back with 14 points in 24 minutes against the Hokies and has scored in double figures in six of the last seven games while averaging 12 points and five boards over that stretch.
💯 from the FT line, including 6-for-6 in the final 1:17 plus a 15-4 run in the second half highlight tonight's Tale of the Tape 👇 pic.twitter.com/BC4Md24keU
— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) January 22, 2018
“He gave us that ability to slash, drive, and I think that has been a good piece that has helped make us more diverse,” noted Bennett, “Now defensively, he has more to learn as the four-man on ball screen coverages, but he can spread out with his length and get offensive rebounds.”
Hunter shows really strong discipline within the Cavaliers’ system as he never forces anything offensively. Sunday night, his points were spread throughout the game as he potentially can become a nightmare in coverage because of his inside-outside prowess and ability to use his athleticism from anywhere on either side of the ball.
“He can shoot the ball and I know his numbers aren’t great from three but they were good shots that he took,” commented Bennett, “Maybe the four-point play at the end of the half at Georgia Tech helped. He is good with his foot fakes and getting by people.”
Hunter displayed his midrange jumper off the baseline in the first half as he netted a pair of shots that pushed Virginia’s lead to 17-10 midway through the first half.
“He showed some diversity of being able to score in the post, get offensive rebounds, threes and pull ups,” explained Bennett, “When he has a four or five on him, it’s a smaller guys and it’s just the way the aspects of the game are going and he has certainly took advantage of us and given us a lift.”
Hunter has stayed in the gym working on his game and working in practice to become better. His performance in that 59-58 win over BC gave him the impetus to establish consistency which he has done from game to game ever since then.
“I just get reps in practice and shooting,” noted Hunter, ” We work out on curls and spot shots every day so when it comes to the game, it is second nature. It’s our offense we work on it every day. I just work to get open shots.”