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Basketball

Virginia players on their Iowa State counterparts

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CHICAGO — Anthony Gill let out a little chuckle after the first question he was asked Thursday afternoon in the Virginia locker room at the United Center.

“Are you guys embracing the contrasting styles matchup in this game?”

You could tell it was a question he, and his Cavalier teammates, had heard a time or two. How would Iowa State and Virginia, two teams with completely different styles, try to impose their will on the other?

According to Gill, it’s simple. Keep being you.

“It seems like almost every game we play is a contrast of styles because we slow the ball down so much and we play defense like no other team does,” the 6-foot-8-inch senior said. “I just think that it’s something we really embrace as we’ve kind of had to because every media session that we have everybody that comes up to us is asking, ‘How are you going to be able to handle their style of play versus yours?’ It’s not anything different. We’re going to do what we do.”

What Virginia does is slow the game down. They limit possessions and play great defense. It’s a point that has been hammered home all week long. That doesn’t mean they’re getting tired of it.

The Cavaliers don’t care how many scorers the Cyclones have on the floor or how many points they score per game. They are going to play their way, like Iowa State is going to play theirs.

This game will be a battle of will. Who is it that will break first?

“They’re a really versatile team that can score the ball in bunches,” sophomore forward Isaiah Wilkins said. “Everybody in their position on the floor can score so we’ve got to be ready to defend.”

I went wandering through the depths of the labyrinth that is the United Center with a goal. I wanted to know what these stingy Virginia defenders think of their Iowa State counterparts.

Wilkins was the first guy I found. He was a man of few words, but when asked about Abdel Nader the 6-foot-7-inch Lilburn, Ga. native perked up. He knew that Nader had been one of the Cyclones’ hottest scorers of late.

“He’s a really big guard for sure,” Wilkins said. “He can shoot it and put it on the floor and get to the basket.”

The next guy I ran into was junior point guard London Perrantes, literally. He, and his magnificent high top fade, ran right into me as I turned around after talking to Wilkins.

It wasn’t long before a scrum had developed around the Cavaliers’ second leading scorer and crafty floor general. The first question was about Monte Morris.

“Very quick, runs the team well, very athletic, he’ll shoot the ball well,” Perrantes said. “I mean, he’s a very good point guard so I’m excited to go out there and play against him.”

Sophomore guard Devon Hall wasn’t hard to find. He was sitting in a chair by himself on the outside of the scrum starting to develop around Gill. He’s one of the several tough-nosed young guards that Tony Bennett has at his disposal. He isn’t a big time scorer or a stat sheet stuffer. He’s just a solid basketball player that can step out and knock shots down from behind the arc. He’s kind of a lighter scoring version of the guy I asked him about, Matt Thomas.

“He’s shooting it well,” Hall said. “I think it’s maybe 43 or 46 percent from three but being able to close out well, and with high hands, is really important as well.”

Gill was next as the group of reporters surrounding him continued to grow. They were all filing into the locker room after finishing up with Malcolm Brogdon in the hall. I got in the group just in time to hear his first answer.

Next, I asked him about Jameel McKay.

“They’re a team that tries to get out in transition. McKay, he runs the floor like no other big we’ve played all year,” Gill said. “Maybe he’s similar to Brice Johnson but even then he gets out a lot quicker than Brice Johnson does. We just have to be ready for that in transition.”

I found Brogdon next. He was surrounded by a few stragglers that had missed out on the initial rush that comes when each team’s star player steps in front of the cameras or microphones. If anyone had already asked him about Georges Niang, you wouldn’t know it.

I asked what makes him so hard to guard. He smiled and shook his head.

“He’s extremely crafty facing up in the mid-post,” Brogdon said. “He can finish with both hands. He can pass. He shoots the three very well and he’s a smart player. He knows how to react. He knows how to adjust to different defenses. All that as one package makes him extremely tough to guard.”

I would say Virginia is impressed by what they’ve seen from the guys in Cardinal and Gold. 

Jared Stansbury

administrator

Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.

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