Home Five Observations: Virginia is going to have a hard time if it can’t score

Five Observations: Virginia is going to have a hard time if it can’t score

Chris Graham
uva reece beekman
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Kentucky scored 117 points today in a win in Rupp over Alabama. Virginia, in the past week, over three games, has scored 134.

It’s uniquely Virginia that the ‘Hoos actually won the first of the three in which they failed to hit the 50 mark, but seriously, it’s hard to win when you’re consistently scoring in the 40s.

Now, it should also be hard for a team to win when its leading scorer is 1-of-14 from the floor, but that was the statline for UNC guard RJ Davis, who came in averaging 21.3 points per game, and still ended up with 12 points, boosted by the four he got at the line in the final minute when Virginia had to foul.

uva minor bacot
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Armando Bacot was also a limited at best factor – 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

Cormac Ryan had an unconscious first half – 15 points on five made threes – and finished with 18, getting a sixth three early in the second half, then going shotless for the final 15:59.

This one could have been another win scoring in the 40s for the ‘Hoos, if only somebody would have stepped up on the offensive end.

Actually, Jordan Minor stepped up – he had 12 points, eight in the second half.

uva isaac mckneely
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

But Virginia’s two leading guys, Reece Beekman and Isaac McKneely, were once again kept on ice.

Beekman scored on two short jumpers in the opening two minutes, then was 2-of-12 the rest of the way, finishing with a modest 10 points and five assists in 37 wearying minutes.

McKneely never did get comfortable, finishing with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, 1-of-5 from three – the make with 3:11 to go cutting the Carolina lead to 47-40, then scoring on a pair of free throws with 2:12 to go to get the margin down to 47-42.

Then, after a UNC miss, McKneely teed up a three from the wing that would have cut the deficit to two, but the shot barely grazed the rim.

Minor grabbed the board, was fouled, but missed the front end of the one-and-one.

Such was the night for Virginia.

Too many damn contested jumpers

uva bennett staff
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

A lot of times, when you see a team has shot 27.6 percent from the floor for a game, it’s a function of shot selection – and usually, that translates to, too many wild threes.

Virginia was just 2-of-14 from three, so, there’s that.

The number that jumps out at me: 7-of-25 shooting on two-point jumpers.

What’s that’s evidence of: settling.

Virginia is a team that already shoots way, way, way too many two-point jumpers – in the top 10 percent nationally in attempts per game (18.4 per game), and shooting just 37.7 percent on those attempts, ranking in the bottom third nationally.

Hoisting up seven more, and shooting worse on those shots, yeah, that’s going to work.

Where was this Jordan Minor the past few times out?

uva bacot minor
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Minor had 12 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes, and made life hard for Bacot, who had the aforementioned 10 points and 13 boards.

His plus/minus for the night, at +2, led the Virginia rotation guys.

Could have used the Minor we had today over the past couple of weeks, which were marked by Tony Bennett gluing Minor to the bench, for some unexplained reason.

Over his previous four, Minor had played a total of 52 minutes – 13.0 minutes per game – averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds per.

Offensive rebounds killed Virginia in the home loss to Pitt, which had 11 offensive boards, leading to 13 points, and poor interior defense was an issue in the loss at Virginia Tech, which scored 16 of its 27 made buckets at the rim via layups and dunks.

Virginia, on Saturday, actually had an 11-9 edge in offensive rebounds on UNC, and the Tar Heels had just nine makes on 18 attempts at the rim.

Hey, Tony played Elijah Gertrude

uva getrude unc
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

I almost did a spit take when Bennett put freshman guard Elijah Gertrude into the game at the 7:09 mark of the first half.

Gertrude’s last non-garbage-time minutes came way back on Jan. 3 in the 77-53 win over Louisville; since that night, Gertrude had gotten 26 garbage-time minutes in five games, and eight DNP-Coach’s Decisions.

What we got out of Gertrude today: six points on 1-of-7 shooting, 4-of-8 at the line – could have used those points he left off the scoreboard in what was a close game into the final minute, but that is what it is – and two steals.

The make from the floor was ballsy: Virginia was down 49-42 when Gertrude hit a short jumper with 1:04 to go to get the game back to five.

The 19 minutes tied Gertrude’s season-high: he got 19 minutes in the 84-62 win in Virginia’s ACC opener with Syracuse way back on Dec. 2.

One other stat worth noting here: his plus/minus, at +1, was the other positive plus/minus among the 10 Virginia kids that got on the floor on Saturday.

The guy whose minutes he took, Andrew Rohde, had three points and a turnover in 15 minutes, and a -6 plus/minus.

Ryan (Can’t Be) Dunn

uva reece beekman ryan dunn
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

Remember the statline for Ryan Dunn in the 69-52 win at Louisville on Jan. 27 – 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, and 11 rebounds?

That was at the apex of an eight-game stretch in which Dunn averaged 11.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, on 72.4 percent shooting.

Here’s what he’s done in the eight games since: 32 points (so, 4.0 points per game), 15-of-32 (46.9 percent) shooting from the floor, 5.9 rebounds per game.

Dunn had two points (1-of-5 FG), four rebounds and three blocks today.

This week: Dunn scored four points (2-of-7 FG) and had nine rebounds.

Dunn is a million times more athletic than Jayden Gardner, the kid he replaced as the starter at the four spot.

I cut myself off there: he’s more athletic, but nowhere near as productive as Gardner, who averaged 13.7 points per game in his two seasons at Virginia.

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].