Reality starting to sink in: Ceiling for this UVA team not as high as we thought
And yes, I get it, the Cavs were very much in this one into the latter stages, before those two dagger threes by Jayson Tatum extended a four-point Duke lead to double-digits in the final two minutes.
But Virginia had long since been outplayed.
It started, as has been the case of late for the Cavs, coming out of the locker room at the half. Duke scored on its first five possessions in the second half, reminding us of what had happened in the road loss at Syracuse two weeks ago, and the road loss at Virginia Tech on Sunday.
And just as was the case in those losses, it wasn’t just the opponent’s sudden prowess on offense that was the story, but the just as sudden ineptitude offensively on the Virginia side.
Before garbage time, following those two Tatum threes that effectively put things away, Virginia managed to put up just 19 points in the second half.
The Cavs made it look good in going 5-of-6 from the floor in the final 1:37. Before that, when the game was still on the line, UVA was 7-of-23 from the floor in the second half, after going 9-of-28 in the first half.
Yeah, ouch, that’s ugly.
London Perrantes, fresh off a 7-of-22 effort in the loss at Virginia Tech, was 4-of-11 from the floor en route to scoring a team-high 14.
Marial Shayok was 3-of-11 from the floor.
It’s hard to win games against elite opponents with your two studs going 7-of-22 combined.
The only guy who put up decent numbers was freshman Ty Jerome, who had 13 on 5-of-8 shooting, but Jerome got just 19 minutes.
Classmate Kyle Guy was 1-of-5 from the field in 11 minutes, after pouring in 12 on 5-of-8 shooting in the loss in Blacksburg.
As good as the defensive effort was Wednesday night, with the Cavs holding Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard to a combined 5-of-20 from the field, getting torched by an out-of-body effort from Tatum (28 points, 21 in the second half), the offense was that bad.
There’s still plenty of time to get things fine-tuned. There are five ACC games left, plus at least one game in Brooklyn in the ACC Tournament, before the Big Dance.
The fear has to be that opponents have figured out how to stop Virginia, and honestly, the book to that end doesn’t have to have too many pages.
The Cavs have two main offensive weapons – Perrantes and Shayok, who are the only UVA players who can create their own shots.
There’s no post game to have to account for, which isn’t necessarily a problem unique to Virginia, to be fair, but is still an issue.
Guy and Jerome can score, but they need to be able to run off screens to get good looks, and can be defensive liabilities.
This group can defend like hell, but its offensive limitations make it susceptible to outlier games from guys like Tatum, Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon and Pitt’s Jamel Artis.
It’s starting to sink in that the ceiling for this team isn’t as high as it was for the past three. The reality is that the 2016-2017 Cavs have overachieved to get where they are, and that’s finally starting to become, unfortunately, abundantly clear.
Column by Chris Graham