BLACKSBURG — Joe Harris had hit only one shot during the first 37 minutes of Virginia’s game at Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.
With the Cavaliers struggling against an impressive Hokies zone defense, Harris had gone cold on a night where the Wahoos needed him most. In the end, Joey Buckets delivered.
The UVa senior sandwiched a 3-point bomb in between two Justin Anderson long-range daggers for a nine-point spurt that knocked Tech out of kilter the rest of the way and helped the streaking Cavaliers win their 10th straight ACC game, 57-53.
Harris’ deep 3 put Virginia in front to stay at 48-46 as the 14th-ranked Cavaliers, who narrowly escaped Clemson last Saturday, avoided an upset on the road for the second time in four days.
For the night, UVa’s All-ACC guard was only 2-for-10, his worst shooting night since going a mere 1-for-10 in an early season loss to Wisconsin. Harris was 2-for-6 from behind the arc.
But, when it counted most, Harris rose to the occasion.
It was obvious that the sharpshooter wanted this one, big-time. You could see it in his eyes.
In fact, Harris said he knew the shot was good as soon as he launched it.
“Yes, I did,” Harris said when asked if he thought the deep 3 was on target. “It felt good. I can usually tell if I’m going to make it or miss it when it’s coming out of my hand.”
There was no question that Harris badly wanted the ball in that situation.
“Yeah, I really did,” Harris said. “I was setting up for it.”
The Cavalier had kicked the ball back to point guard London Perrantes, noticing that Tech’s Jarrell Eddie, who had been positioned in the bottom of the zone. After Harris had passed the ball to Perrantes, he also noticed that Eddie had returned to his position in the low block.
“I knew if London got it back to me quickly, I’d have a room and rhythm shot,” Harris said.
Because of Harris’ experience and skill, he has the green light to put up the 3 any time he feels like it. This time it was golden. This time it was the shot that slayed the Hokies and gave the Cavaliers a two-game sweep over Tech for the second straight year.
“He’s such a threat and has pulled us out so many times,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said of his prized guard. “It was a deep one. But when he has a good look, room and rhythm, it’s a go.”
Harris has increased his length this season on the 3-ball and this one was well behind the line.
The Cavaliers are now 22-5 overall and 13-1 in the ACC, and host Notre Dame on Saturday.