In a dramatic finish that closed out a thrilling game, the Virginia Cavaliers fell at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes, 75-74. With the loss, there’s much to be considered for this Wahoo team moving forward.
Iowa just made a few more shots than Virginia
When Virginia was down 21 points in the first half, this game seemed doomed to follow a similar pattern as the Houston contest just a few weeks ago. It seemed as though Iowa couldn’t miss while the ‘Hoos struggled mightily to hit shots from the perimeter or generate any consistent offense.
But, after a quick 6-0 run to close the half, Virginia came out firing in the second and was actually able to establish perimeter threats as Taine Murray, Kihei Clark, and Jayden Gardner combined to shoot 9-12 from deep. Even with Armaan Franklin going 0-4 from beyond the arc, the team shot 50% from behind the arc on the night and was much more fluid offensively as a result.
That said, Iowa managed to hit a few more shots than the ‘Hoos. Joe Toussaint’s game-winner with eight seconds left stands in stark contrast to Taine Murray’s missed free throw with 25 seconds left and Kihei Clark’s missed floater in the final seconds.
Both those guys hit big shots tonight. They just didn’t hit the last few. And, in a game like this, that’s what decides the outcome.
There is a moral victory to be considered
This one hurt, there’s no doubt about it. To come back from so far down and to take the lead later and have the chance to close out the game with a stop. Especially considering how much the Wahoo defense struggled in the first half, the fact that this was a close game was a mini-miracle.
With that in mind, this game is (hopefully) evidence of an improving, growing squad that will ideally be able to string together more complete games in the future.
Taine Murray has his coming out party
In a shocking performance after he had played just 13 minutes in the previous 3 games, Taine Murray had the most impressive performance of his career to date against Iowa. In 21 minutes, the Kiwi scored 14 points on 5-7 shooting overall and 4-6 (!!!) from deep. He hit two huge threes late in the game to give the ‘Hoos a chance and displayed just how game ready he is when given the opportunity to play on the perimeter.
The missed free throw on the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left was evidence of his inexperience. Yet, that blip doesn’t undercut how big a role the freshman played in Virginia’s comeback.
Considering how desperately this team needs perimeter shooting, Murray’s potential emergence would be a boon for this squad. Hopefully, with more opportunities, the Kiwi will only gain more confidence as he continues to see the ball go through the hoop.
Kadin Shedrick’s presence is critical
Kadin Shedrick played just four minutes in the first half as he continued to struggle with foul trouble. His absence was undoubtedly felt as Iowa got easy looks at the rim and dominated the glass when shots didn’t fall.
In the second half, though, Shedrick made his presence felt as he largely avoided fouls and made a significant impact on either end of the floor. Finishing with nine points, six rebounds, one block, and a +14 plus/minus, Shedrick is establishing himself as perhaps Virginia’s most important player considering the lack of depth at the center position and the unique skill set he brings to the floor.
His continued development and growth will be critical for this team in the short and long term futures.
Where does Virginia’s resume stand?
With another possible quality win gone and Virginia now sitting with three losses through eight games, it’s time to at least start assessing the Wahoos’ NCAA Tournament resume. The squad’s best and only truly respectable win came against Providence. That plus the bad loss to Navy, means the ‘Hoos are more than likely on the outside looking in as of this moment.
There aren’t any more legitimate opportunities in non-conference play. So, ACC play will determine this team’s tournament chances.
Of course, it is still very early in the season and Bennett teams have been known to come on late in conference play. There’s no need to panic after a result like this. But, it’s worth considering just how difficult a path the ‘Hoos have to bolster their resume as conference play approaches.