True confession time: since it’s against ACC bylaws that Virginia has a home basketball game on Saturday, and most Saturday road games have been in the afternoon, I typically enjoy a quiet Saturday evening.
Watching Grit TV.
“Television with a Backbone.”
Saturday’s 8 p.m. slot was the movie “Utah Blaine.” The plot: a gunfighter helps a ranch owner prevent renegade outlaws from taking over the ranch.
I’ve seen it about 50 times.
Last night, I flipped over to The CW and watched Saturday’s 8 p.m. slot.
Now that was really “Television with a Backbone.”
And I hope I never see a repeat of that.
Twice in the final 10 minutes, Virginia let a double-digit margin slip away to within two points, but the Cavaliers held on to save the ranch, err, the game, in an 80-76 win over FSU.
The stars of this show were McKneely and Beekman, who had 29 and 21 points, respectively.
The villains: the three-man officiating crew that turned this contest into a foul fest marathon of over two and a half hours.
The win, Virginia’s eighth straight in ACC play, keeps the Cavaliers one game off the pace of league-leading North Carolina.
Just like a plot from a Grit TV movie, the Cavaliers had to “hold off the bad guys” all evening.
And when things appeared most desperate for UVA, as in any good western, the good guys came to the rescue.
Saturday, it was McKneely and Beekman, with a huge support role from, who else but Jake Groves.
FSU used a 9-0 streak to erase a double-digit deficit midway through the second half to make it a 54-52 game.
The bad guys, I mean, the Seminoles, had all the momentum.
Virginia was unraveling.
A timeout was in order.
Out of the timeout, the Cavaliers restored order.
Crisp ball movement allowed Groves to be open in the corner, where he nailed a three-pointer to give the Cavaliers some breathing room, 57-52.
But as with any good western, an easy win was not in the script.
The lead disappeared in the final few minutes; the Seminoles sliced the lead to 77-74 with 12 seconds left.
But Virginia kept the ball in McKneely’s hands, and he made crucial free throws to preserve the road win.
We’ve seen a similar script like this for the Cavaliers often this season.
A double-digit advantage in the final minutes ended up being a nail-biter.
Tonight, some key turnovers, a bad foul by Ryan Dunn, and some crucial free throw misses allowed FSU to hang around to the final ticks of the clock.
However, Virginia survived, continuing to find ways to win away from Charlottesville, notching their fourth consecutive ACC road win.
Who had that on their bingo card six weeks ago?
At one point Virginia was 0-3 in ACC road games, with every loss exceeding 15 points.
Foul problems for UVA a benefit?
Jordan Minor logged just 12 minutes, due to two first-half fouls.
Blake Buchanan filled the void. Offensively Buchannan needs some work, but he adequately provided defensive help in the post.
Dunn also was plagued by early foul trouble and ended up logging much fewer minutes than normal.
Enter Groves, who is no Ryan Dunn defensively, but is an instant-offense threat from the perimeter.
More fun with numbers
McKneely has more games with five or more three-pointers than Joe Harris did in his UVA career.
Virginia is one of eight major-conference teams with 19 or more wins this season.
The 23 fouls called against UVA are the most in over eight years.
Virginia has the nation’s longest home winning streak with 23 and is now second among major-conference teams in road winning streak with four, and second in overall winning streak with eight.