CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With N.C. State’s Braxton Beverly in tow, Virginia guard Kyle Guy sprinted toward the three-point arc. Mere feet from press row Thursday in the Spectrum Center, Guy paused behind the thin blue line. He hunched his back and put his hands on his knees, but he wasn’t stationary for long.
The second Beverly felt comfortable enough to relax, Guy sprang to life, taking two steps toward the top of the key to grab a pass and do what he does best — contort his body in mid air and find the basket with a clutch 3-pointer.
It was one of several critical deep balls from Guy in the second half Thursday, and although they went on to beat N.C. State by a comfortable margin (76-56) in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament, the Cavaliers needed every one of them.
Guy paced Virginia with 29 points — one shy of his career-high 30 this season against Marshall — and he shot 10-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-9 from 3-point range. In an effort that began at the end of last season, he continued to show the world that he’s more than one of the best perimeter shooters in nation.
“Kyle is a complete player. He’s smart and complete, and he’s so efficient,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “He’s deceptive, and I thought he made some great passes.”
Guy said Bennett ends each season with one-on-one interviews with his players. What usually results is a list of areas that player can build on in the offseason.
“Creating my own shot or for others was on that list,” Guy said. “I always knew I could do it. It was just getting the confidence and turning it into work like I did today.”
Early in the first half, Guy passed on an open 3-pointer from the top of the arc. Instead, he read the defense, found a weakness and exploited it with a drive and finish. Moments later after a steal, he slashed to the rim again, got a layup to fall and drew a foul, which he converted into a 16-6 UVa lead.
“Teams want to run him off the line, but you can’t just do that,” Bennett said. “I think that makes him and us more efficient and effective offensively.”
In the first half on Thursday, Guy was the only one of the Cavaliers’ usual suspects producing points. He opened the game 5-for-6 from the floor and scored 11 of Virginia’s first 16 points. By halftime, he had 14.
Ty Jerome, meanwhile, opened the game 0-for-8 from the floor with just two points on 1-of-11 shooting (though he did rack up 10 assists). At halftime, De’Andre Hunter had just three points (he finished with 16), and Virginia’s bench finished Thursday’s win with just nine points compared to 24 from N.C. State’s reserves.
But Guy said slow shooting days don’t affect the Cavaliers the way they may some teams.
“Shots are going to come and go, but defense is always going to be there,” Guy said. “I didn’t feel pressure, but just knew I needed to be more aggressive since shots weren’t falling.”
After trailing the Wolfpack, 29-27, at halftime, Guy said Virginia’s second-half comeback began with a mentality. Late rallies are becoming commonplace for the Wahoos, who had to erase halftime deficits this season against North Carolina, Louisville and Syracuse, and they had to go into overtime to beat N.C. State in the regular season.
“Calm is contagious,” Guy said. “It starts with Coach Bennett and ripples all the way down to our first-years. When we have experience, we can stay calm in these situations. We never really worry. We just know what we have to take care of, and in the second half, it was bucking down on defense and getting up the shots.”
Though he strives not to be seen as a one-trick pony, the 3-pointer is what got Guy where he is today, so he’s only going to stray so far away from it.
Four of Guy’s 3-pointers on Thursday fell after halftime. None were bigger than the one that turned into a four-point play. With a little more than 14 minutes left in regulation, he knocked down a three through contact and hit the ensuing free throw to give Virginia a 41-36 lead.
Guy knocked down two early 3’s, the second of which gave the Cavaliers an 11-4 lead. His final deep ball of the game gave Virginia a 57-41 lead with just under nine minutes left in regulation.
“You know, the shots that he made were back-breakers,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said. “I thought everybody kind of fed off of him, and he just made shots.”
When the Cavaliers needed to close a seven-point gap and put North Carolina away in Chapel Hill, they looked for Guy. When the Wahoos needed a game-clinching trey in overtime in Raleigh against N.C. State, they looked to Guy.
When the game is on the line, Guy is going to be the guy with the ball in his hands, and if he continues to deal the way he did on Thursday, Virginia may ride the March Madness wave all the way to Minneapolis.