CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Guy knew Virginia's coaches wanted him to be more aggressive on offense this season, not only in taking open shots when he has them, but driving to the basket more often to help the Cavaliers pick up some easy points at the free-throw line. He did both in Virginia's opener Friday night, and the Cavaliers' defense helped, too, in a 60-48 victory against UNC Greensboro.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Guy knew Virginia's coaches wanted him to be more aggressive on offense this season, not only in taking open shots when he has them, but driving to the basket more often to help the Cavaliers pick up some easy points at the free-throw line.
He did both in Virginia's opener Friday night, and the Cavaliers' defense helped, too, in a 60-48 victory against UNC Greensboro.
"I was a little more aggressive," Guy said. "The coaches have been on me all offseason to shoot the ball when I'm open and try to create for myself and others so that's what I tried to do."
The sophomore, who showed the potential for explosive scoring as a freshman, expects to be a marked man this year.
"I think I have a little bit of a target on my back so guys will be chasing me a little harder, being a little more physical, so that's where I'll put it on the floor and try to get to the free-throw line, which I tried to put a huge emphasis on this game," Guy said.
Virginia took command with a 16-1 run spanning halftime, opening a 40-21 lead, but allowed the Spartans to get within 46-38 with under 6 minutes left. But transfer Nigel Johnson scored on a drive, starting a 7-0 burst that rebuilt the lead and they cruised.
"He was just trying to feel his way into the game," Guy said of Johnson, who played previously at Kansas State and Rutgers. "First game with his third team in five years. It will take some getting used to but he fits in really well."
Devon Hall added 13 points for Virginia and Isaiah Wilkins had nine with eight rebounds. Guy kept pace with the Spartans on the scoreboard for most of the first as the rest of the Cavaliers showed the rust that often typifies an opening game. Ty Jerome, one of two fellow starters in the backcourt who will need to score, missed his first five shots and didn't make one until just 10:26 remained in the game.
"We had stretches of real good defense, but offensively they make you work," Virginia coach Tony Bennett said "Nothing came easy."
The Cavaliers' continuing aptitude for defense was no surprise to Spartans coach Wes Miller. His top returning scorers, Francis Alonso and Marvin Smith, led the team with nine and 12 points, respectively, but Alonso was 3 for 12 from the field, Smith 2 for 12.
"I called more plays tonight than I ever want to call in a season because we couldn't figure out how to score," he said.
UNCG was 4-for-21 shooting over the last 19 minutes of the first half in falling behind 29-20. The deficit grew to 19 before Kyrin Galloway hit UNCG's first field goal of the second half after almost 6 minutes had elapsed.
The Spartans outrebounded Virginia 36-30, but shot just 29.4 percent (15-51) and missed 22 of 26 3-point tries.
Guy made a huge splash last season, not only for his play, but for showing up on campus sporting a man bun.
He's got a regular haircut now, but UNCG's Garrett Collins played sparingly while sporting a mullet and a bun.
"He definitely one-upped me from last year," Guy said
UNCG: The Spartans lost their No. 2 and No. 3 scorers off last year's team, but have two others, junior Francis Alonso and senior Marvin Smith, with chances to join the 1,000-point club this year. The defending Southern Conference regular season champs should more than hold their own against their level of competition.
Virginia: The Cavaliers had been ranked in 64 consecutive polls before not making it into the Preseason Top 25. They showed why they have something to prove to voters because of uncertainty where their scoring will come from, but looked very much up to the task defensively against the Spartans.
The Spartans begin a four-game home stand when they take on N.C. Wesleyan next Wednesday night.
Virginia remains at home for a game against Austin Peay on Monday night.
Follow Hank Kurz Jr. on Twitter @hankkurzjr