Home Virginia Basketball Notebook: Cavaliers take care of business before exam break
Basketball, Sports

Virginia Basketball Notebook: Cavaliers take care of business before exam break

Scott German
tony bennett
Photo: UVA Athletics

If the mark of a good basketball team is winning convincingly against an overmatched opponent, then Virginia is 4-0 in such games.

The latest victim, North Carolina Central University, trailed Issac McKneely 12-4 before the first streaming timeout.

The Eagles, who lost 77-47, were so dominated by UVA in the opening half that when they left the floor, they trailed 41-19, but when they returned from the locker room to start second half play, they found themselves down 41-17, the result of a basket interference call against Virginia that was overturned.

Not that the two points really mattered.

Just fitting for how a complete mismatch this was from the opening tip.

Throw in Virginia’s beatdown of Syracuse on Saturday, and Virginia has long since forgotten the horrific loss to Wisconsin, and the narrow escape over a bad West Virginia team.

That’s another mark of a good team.

Learn from your mistakes and turn the page.

The overall athleticism of the Cavaliers continues to be a key feature. Even coach Tony Bennett is going to have a tough time slowing down the offensive express.

And why would he?

No matter the combination of players on the floor, save garbage time, Virginia is hitting on all cylinders.

They make the open shots, even make some of the contested shots, and use their customary defensive intensity to create transition baskets.

Now, before getting too carried away, the early-season competition hasn’t exactly been daunting.

Oh, Texas A&M, Florida, Wisconsin are well-regarded, but there’s been plenty of cupcakes on the menu as well.

It’s a long season.

How long?

By the time the Final Four comes around next April, Major League Baseball will have a week of regular-season action in the books.

That long.

So, it’s way too early to be looking for the best place in JPJ to hang another national championship banner.

But, one week into December, here’s what is going right for Virginia.

Issac McKneely is finding a home behind the arc 

The last two games McKneely has made a living behind the line. And on his way to making an even better living after his UVA career is over.

McKneely is 12-of-16 behind the line in his last two games. Tuesday night against the Eagles, he connected on his first four three-point attempts and had 14 points in the first 4:39.

As important, McKneely appears to be comfortable at actively looking for a shot, which can be equally effective for the UVA offense.

Gertrude may help Harris heal more quickly 

Cal Ripken Jr. said one of the reasons he never took a day off and often played through injuries was that he didn’t want to give another player a chance to take his place.

Now, the ankle injury to Dante Harris was certainly unfortunate, but watching how effective Elijah Gertrude has been since removing his redshirt might help that ankle recover a little more quickly.

The two players can complement one another, having Gertrude and Harris add depth to what is shaping up to be a solid rotation.

Having now appeared in three games, Gertrude continues to highlight his abilities.

Tuesday against UNCC Gertrude had 13 points, shooting 6-of-11 from the floor.

Watching Gertrude elevate in the lane, creating distance for a shot, is impressive for a true freshman with only three games under his belt.

And keep in mind, he missed his entire senior season of high school due to the ACL surgery.

He truly has no ceiling.

He also plays a good Superman-Clark Kent role.

After leaving the floor with a bloody No. 12 jersey, Gertrude returned wearing a nameless No. 55 jersey. He returned to the game soon after and never missed a beat.

Time may be running out for Minor 

It hasn’t really mattered what the competition level has been, Jordan Minor has struggled against both high and low-level opponents this season.

When Minor first announced his transfer to Virginia, I looked at some of his highlights from his previous school, Merrimack.

The first thing that struck me when I first saw Minor in a UVA uniform was in the Blue-White scrimmage: he looked much smaller than he did last season.

He’s no longer among the bigger players on the floor, and so far, has failed to demonstrate the athleticism needed for an undersized player.

With that, his minutes will continue to be reduced, as he faces bigger, stronger players.

He needs that one good game, or even that one solid stretch of minutes where he plays well and restores his confidence.

The Cavaliers aren’t exactly loaded up front, and an effective Jordan Minor would be huge.

The clock is ticking, though.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.