Home Virginia gets back on track on offense: Hot second half keys 72-68 win at BC

Virginia gets back on track on offense: Hot second half keys 72-68 win at BC

Chris Graham
uva jake groves boston college
Photo: UVA Athletics

Virginia hadn’t scored out of the 40s in a week and a half. The adjustments that Tony Bennett made to his struggling offense over the past couple of days produced 45 in the second half of a season-saving, for now, 72-68 win over Boston College on Wednesday night.

Bennett didn’t totally scrap his mover-blocker/sides offense, but the game plan for BC did feature more variety than we’ve seen in a while from Virginia (21-8, 12-6 ACC), with plenty of ball screens to free up Reece Beekman (18 points, eight assists) and create open shots on the perimeter for Isaac McKneely (14 points, 3-of-6 3FG) and Jake Groves (13 points, 3-of-6 3FG).

The word that leaked out on Tuesday that Groves was going to start in the place of struggling sophomore off-guard Andrew Rohde signaled some change in the offing with the offensive approach.

Effectively, it was Ryan Dunn who moved to the second off-ball backcourt spot on the offensive end, with Groves operating as the stretch four, with the starting lineup on the floor.

That new lineup got out to an early 11-2 lead before cooling off. Virginia missed nine of its last 11 shots of the first half and led 27-23 at the break.

Boston College (15-13, 6-11 ACC) got its first lead of the game with a Devin McGlockton dunk at the 12:52 mark that put the Eagles up 40-39.

It would be back-and-forth for a while from there until Virginia, coming out of the under-8 media timeout, found some openings with ball screens and dribble drives that created looks from three for McKneely and Groves, who connected from long-range on back-to-back-to-back possessions, the final make, from Groves, giving the ‘Hoos a 57-51 lead with 5:35 left.

A crisp crosscourt pass from Beekman to an open Rohde on the right wing led to another three that extended the lead to 63-55 with 3:43 left.

The game shouldn’t have been as close as it was down the stretch. The Cavaliers had four straight 1-of-2 trips at the foul line in the second half, the last of those, a single free-throw make from Beekman, leaving the lead at 64-58 with 2:58 on the clock.

With the outcome left in doubt, the opportunity was there for Boston College, which got a clutch three from BC sophomore Donald Hand Jr., the son of UVA hoops alum Donald Hand, that cut the Virginia lead to 66-63 with 2:04 to go.

Beekman, next time down the floor, converted both ends of a two-shot foul, then after a BC miss, found Blake Buchanan for a floater that pushed the lead to seven with 1:22 left.

The Eagles had one last mini-run, getting a Quentin Post layup and an and-one by Mason Madsen to get it to 70-68 with 29 seconds left.

McKneely made both ends of a two-shot foul with 25 seconds left, and the Virginia D closed it out from there, forcing a Madsen airball from three with four seconds left before rebounding and dribbling out the clock.

For a team that usually wins with defense, it was all about the O in this one.

The second-half numbers for Virginia: 45 points, 13-of-26 shooting from the field, 6-of-12 from three, 1.406 points per possession.

Beekman, in the second half, had 10 points and seven assists. Groves had 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, 3-of-5 from three.

McKneely had nine points on 2-of-3 shooting from three and 3-of-4 shooting at the line.

Not bad if that’s your Big Three, which it should be going forward.

And then there’s the night put in by Dunn, who had eight points – he’d been averaging a very quiet 4.0 points over his last eight games – and 13 rebounds.

The center duo of Buchanan (five points, 2-of-2 FG, two rebounds, two blocks in 18 minutes) and Jordan Minor (four points, 1-of-6 FG, five rebounds in 21 minutes) was thoroughly outplayed by Post, who finished with 24 points (6-of-14 FG, 1-of-4 3FG, 11-of-11 FT) and 10 rebounds in 37 minutes.

BC’s issue was jump-shooting. The Eagles were 9-of-36 (25.0 percent) on jumpers on the night, including 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from three.

Jaeden Zackery had a nice all-around game for Boston College – 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in 37 minutes.

Madsen, who had been averaging 16.3 points per game on 54.7 percent shooting from the floor and 50 percent shooting from three over his last six games, finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, 1-of-10 from three.

The win likely keeps Virginia on the right side of the NCAA Tournament bubble with two games left in the regular season.

For what it’s worth, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi, who gets a lot of this right, had said before the game that a Virginia win would keep the ‘Hoos in the tournament field, and that a loss would put them on the outside looking in.

So, there you go.

For now.

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].