Scott German: UVA surging on the offensive end
In a season full of missed shots, the Virginia Cavaliers somehow and someway have found a way to stay in the upper tier of the ACC standings.
And all season long, the constant question surrounding the defending national champions was simply, what’s going to happen when they finally do shoot well and once again protect the basketball?
Both questions were resoundingly answered here Wednesday evening in JPJ as the Cavaliers, in their most complete performance of the season, coasted past Boston College, 78-65.
Virginia (18-7, 10-5 ACC) set a season high in points in surging to their third consecutive win and sixth in seven games.
The win keeps the Cavaliers firmly in fourth place in league play with five games remaining.
So, what happens when the team that can’t shoot straight finally does? Easy. They win, and they do so with ease, and they don’t need any last-second heroics or buzzer-beaters.
Wednesday evening, in a rematch with BC, who beat the Cavaliers earlier this year, Virginia shot 57.8 percent from the field, and connected on 10-of-17 from deep.
The Cavaliers led by 12 at the break and kept the Eagles comfortably in their rear-view mirror for most of the second half.
It was a total team effort for UVA, placing five players in double figures, with Braxton Key and Kihei Clark scoring 17 points each.
Key and Clark provided a crucial one-two punch for Virginia early in the second half. The 35-23 halftime lead had been sliced in half to 45-39 when the dynamic duo went into action.
Key scored six straight points on assertive moves to the basket, one a dunk, the other on a spin-move that resulted in a layup. Key also sank two free throws during his scoring spree.
Both Key baskets came on assists from Clark, who finished with eight assists for the game.
On the dunk, Clark brought the house down with a no-look lob to Key, who flushed the ball home.
Virginia appears to be finding its comfort zone on the offensive end of the floor.
Tomas Woldentensae, who has been shooting lights out away from JPJ, finally got the taste of some home cooking, scoring 14 points, shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.
Kody Stattmann, while only scoring six points on two threes, connected on a wide-open three midway in the second half, and his three with 5:22 left provided the Cavaliers with their largest lead of the game at 70-50, sending the JPJ faithful to the parking lots.
The 13-point final spread felt as though it was 30, considering how most of the season has gone for UVA.
In their previous two wins, the Cavaliers had survived one- and two-point games, beating Notre Dame in overtime last week and edging North Carolina Saturday 64-62 in Chapel Hill.
So, for a team that for most of the season won games by engaging the opponent in a backyard brawl, it’s now time to show the league that they can win in other ways.
The Cavaliers are still perfectly capable of winning ugly, but Wednesday evening they showed they can dress up as well.
And for the rest of the ACC, that might not be such a good thing.
Story by Scott German