Home Virginia didn’t play soft, but awful shooting dooms ‘Hoos in 54-44 loss to UNC
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Virginia didn’t play soft, but awful shooting dooms ‘Hoos in 54-44 loss to UNC

Chris Graham
uva bacot minor
Photo: Mike Ingalls/AFP

That Virginia team, that just lost to North Carolina, 54-44, didn’t play soft today; but for the third straight game, the ‘Hoos couldn’t get out of the 40s in the scoring column.

And now, UVA (20-8, 11-6 ACC) is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble, as if that’s a concern with a team that has now lost three of its last four, and can’t throw it in the ocean from the shoreline.

Case in point there: UVA was 5-of-30 from the field in the first half, and it wasn’t like it was bombs-away from three for that to be the case, either.

Yes, Virginia missed all six of its threes, but the Cavaliers were getting good looks at the rim off screens; the shots just weren’t falling.

UNC (21-6, 13-3 ACC) didn’t do much better, aside from Notre Dame transfer Cormac Ryan, who had 18 on the day, on six made threes, five of those in the first 20 minutes.

Even with his 15, though, Carolina would only lead by 10, 26-16, at the break, over a team that, reminding you here, made five shots on its 30 heaves at the hoop.

Virginia would get the margin to six a couple of times in the opening minutes of the second half, then find itself beset by, let’s call them intriguing officiating decisions.

Started with an obvious turnover by Armando Bacot that was awarded to UNC, which promptly converted with an RJ Davis three to extend the lead at the time back to nine.

Then, on Virginia’s next time up the court, what appeared to be an obvious and-one opportunity for Reece Beekman was wiped off the board.

Jamie Luckie, you know him, quality arbiter, then stopped play to give Tony Bennett a box warning, which can be assessed when the coach is outside the coaching box, and usually only is when said coach is also talking to the officials about something.

Luckie blew the whistle on Bennett when he was inside the coaching box, and had been for several seconds.

That was fun.

That little wind-aided spurt allowed UNC to stretch the lead back to 13, but Virginia fought back, getting the margin to five on a pair of free throws from Isaac McKneely with 2:12 left, then after a Carolina miss, McKneely was able to tee up an open look from the same spot on the floor with 1:50 left.

The shot missed, but Jordan Minor rebounded and was fouled.

Minor missed the front end of the one-and-one, and after a Hubert Davis timeout, Harrison Ingram found himself left alone under the basket on a switch, and converted the open layup, to push the lead back to 49-42.

Feel bad for Minor there; after being glued to the bench the last three games, the grad senior had 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes, and largely held Bacot (10 points, 4-of-7 FG, 13 boards) in check.

Minor was one of the two Virginia kids with a positive plus/minus number, at +2.

Elijah Gertude hit a short jumper with 1:04 to go to get the deficit back to 49-44, but closed the game out at the free-throw line, making 5-of-6 in the final minute.

Note on Gertrude: kid got his first serious minutes in weeks, and did something with them – had six points in 19 minutes, and he was the other guy on the Virginia roster with a positive plus/minus today, at +1.

Beekman had 10 points (4-of-14 shooting), seven rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes, and he was gassed down the stretch.

McKneely finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, 1-of-5 from three.

Ryan Dunn had two points (1-of-5 FG), four rebounds and three blocks in 23 minutes.

Hard to win when your Big Three scores 19 on 7-of-28 shooting, but somehow Virginia was around until the final minute.

No such thing as a moral victory, of course.

Yep, another tough loss here for the ‘Hoos, who early last week welcomed Pitt here to JPJ on an eight-game winning streak, sitting at 10-3 in the ACC, a game behind UNC in the conference standings, and looking solid for the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt pulled away in the final minutes for a 74-63 win, and it’s been downhill from there.

This loss likely puts Virginia on the wrong side of the cutline with three games left in the regular season.

Is what it is.

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].

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