Virginia wraps up nonconference play Monday afternoon against Marshall. The No. 4 Cavaliers pounced on William & Mary last time out, shooting 48 percent from the field as a team in a 72-40 victory.
Coach Tony Bennett’s team will hope for a similar result on New Year’s Eve. The Thundering Herd (7-5) will prove an interesting foil for the Cavaliers (11-0), given the teams’ contrasting styles. Marshall likes to run; Virginia, of course, does not.
Here are four things to watch for when the ’Hoos take the John Paul Jones Arena floor opposite Marshall.
1. Tony Bennett is one win away from history
Though he is remiss to talk about his own legacy, Bennett will be under focus Monday. A Virginia victory would mark Bennett’s 300th win as a head coach in a 13-year career that started with a three-year stint at Washington State before he came to Charlottesville in 2009. The three-time National and ACC Coach of the Year is 230-86 at Virginia and 299-119 in his career.
2. Can Virginia slow the pace down?
Marshall ranks seventh in the nation in adjusted tempo (76.6 possessions per 40 minutes), while Virginia (60.3 possessions per 40 minutes) ranks last among all 353 teams. The styles clash will present an intriguing backdrop for the contest, with the teams fighting to control the tempo to their liking. The Thundering Herd’s high-flying offense is captained by senior guard Jon Elmore, who’s averaging 19.6 points per game and five assists per game. Expect freshman point guard Kihei Clark to look to slow him down.
3. How much further along is Clark in the recovery process?
Speaking of Clark, Monday will mark the three-week anniversary of the surgery he underwent on his fractured left wrist. Instead of recovering from the bench, Clark has slipped on a protective cast for UVa wins over South Carolina and William & Mary. Though Clark played big minutes off the bench in both games, his offensive production has slipped a tad. He’s gotten to the free-throw line just twice (he converted both attempts) and is 1-for-7 from the field since the Dec. 10 surgery. It’ll be interesting to see if Clark is still wearing a cast against the Thundering Herd, and if he is, how it affects him offensively.
4. Will De’Andre Hunter have another big scoring night?
Clark’s offensive efficiency is less pressing for UVa than De’Andre Hunter’s. The redshirt sophomore guard poured in a team-high 18 points last time out, in the process breaking out of a mini slump. Hunter had failed to crack double-digit scoring in Virginia’s previous two games, but he turned a corner against William & Mary. He shot 4-for-8 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. The Thundering Herd will likely press and trap in the backcourt, a strategy that could give UVa shooters — including Hunter —some daylight. With ACC play kicking off Jan. 5 against No. 9 Florida State, the Cavaliers are hopeful to have Hunter playing with confidence on the offensive end.