Home Five Observations: New lineup, new offensive sets fuel Virginia to win at BC

Five Observations: New lineup, new offensive sets fuel Virginia to win at BC

Chris Graham
uva basketball
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Virginia, in Tony Bennett’s preferred offense, the mover-blocker/sides that his father, Dick Bennett, passed down to him, found itself too often, of late, playing 2-on-5 on the offensive end, with Bennett trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

It maybe took Bennett and his staff longer to figure out what they needed to do to get more points on the board, but whatever.

Virginia hadn’t scored out of the 40s in what felt like forever. The Cavaliers scored 45 in the second half of their 72-68 win at Boston College on Wednesday night, and it’s because of changes to the rotation and the offensive sets that we saw what we saw, which was offense that looked to belong in the 21st century.

First, the lineup change: Bennett went with Jake Groves in the starting lineup over Andrew Rohde, who just has not worked out this season after transferring in following a freshman season at St. Thomas in which he averaged 17.1 points per game.

Groves has had an up-and-down season offensively, but the down has had as much to do with fluctuating minutes as anything else.

Second thing, the game plan: Bennett didn’t totally scrap mover-blocker, which uses the two post guys to set screens for the guards to get them open looks for shots and passes, but he did have a lot more high ball screens with his guards and his bigs, and more opportunities in the post for the bigs.

What this did was free up point guard Reece Beekman for dribble-drives that he used to create for himself (18 points, 5-of-8 FG, 8-of-10 FT) and for his teammates (eight assists).

The beneficiaries on the dimes: Isaac McKneely (14 points, 4-of-8 FG, 3-of-6 3FG, 3-of-4 FT) and Groves (13 points, 5-of-11 FG, 3-of-5 3FG).

Even Rohde, averaging 4.5 points per game on 30.2 percent shooting on the season, got in on the act, connecting on a huge three on a nice crosscourt dish from Beekman with 3:43 on the clock to put Virginia up eight.

Rohde finished with five points on 2-of-5 shooting, including that made three.

The variety of sets kept BC defenders on their toes, and gave the Virginia kids options for when the sets that they’ve run tens of thousands of times in practice aren’t working.

Beekman had to feel like a new man out there

Beekman, in Virginia’s losses to Virginia Tech (75-41, Feb. 19) and UNC (54-44, Feb. 24) had 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting, seven assists and five turnovers.

Opponents were taking advantage of Virginia’s limited offensive productivity by zoning off screens in the mover-blocker sets to take away passing options for Beekman, forcing him to create for himself often against an extra defender.

The game plan for Wednesday gave him the opportunity to work more off high screens, with the middle of the floor open more often than not, and Bennett stationed shooters in both corners to give Beekman outlets if help was to come.

This was reminiscent of the game plan for Virginia’s 80-76 win at FSU on Feb. 10.

In that one, Beekman had 21 points (7-of-16 FG, 7-of-11 FT) and five assists.

More of what we saw tonight, and that night down in Tallahassee, please, indeed.

Speaking of feeling like a new man: Jake Groves

Groves had that nice four-game run from Jan. 31 through Feb. 10 in which he averaged 14.3 points per game and shot a bonkers 13-of-18 from three.

His next four came with outsized attention from opponents in their defensive game plans, and lack of creativity from Virginia in its planning and then a general lack of execution.

Grove in those four: nine points, total, with a pair of goose eggs, on 12 total attempts from the field.

His minutes were down to 19.0 per in that stretch, too, as Bennett and staff struggled with how to get Groves and the rest of the offense off the schneid.

The solution: starting Groves, then sticking with him when he had a quiet first half – two points on 1-of-4 shooting in 13 minutes.

The reward: a big second half, in which Groves scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 3-of-5 from three.

Ryan Dunn pitches another shutout

Ryan Dunn’s counting numbers on offense weren’t spectacular – eight points, 3-of-9 shooting, two airballs from three, 2-of-4 at the line.

Dunn put his Draymond Green-like imprint on this one everywhere else.

His 13 rebounds were a season-high.

The official scorer only credited him with one blocked shot, which seems low, but is what it is.

Synergy Sports tells us postgame that Dunn didn’t allow a point on defense, forcing four misses from the field.

It was the second straight game in which Dunn pitched a shutout on defense.

On the season, Dunn is allowing just 4.2 points per game on 29.0 percent shooting.

They made foul shots!

Virginia was 16-of-22 at the line in the win. It wasn’t the best performance of the season: I’d go with the 18-of-24 in the win at FSU there.

Technically, the 12-of-15 line item in the 84-62 win over Syracuse back in December came at a better clip.

I’m still going with the FSU shooting night, because of the greater volume.

As good as things were at the line at BC, there was a stretch of four straight 1-of-2s at the line, two involving Beekman, and one involving McKneely, that left this one closer in the final two minutes than it should have been.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].