The Virginia Cavaliers dominated the Monmouth Hawks 89-42 in their second contest of the season, pulling away after a 17-0 scoring run and never looking back. Freshman Isaac McKneely paced the ‘Hoos with 15 points.
Balanced scoring attack propels Virginia
Virginia’s 89 points equaled their highest scoring output since the 2018-19 season, as the ‘Hoos scored on 65 percent of their possessions and poured in an unreal 1.48 points per possessions. Sometimes, massive offensive outputs are the result of one single player shooting out of their mind. However, that was distinctly not the case for Virginia tonight.
Their leading scorer Isaac McKneely tallied just 15 points, but nine separate players scored at least seven points, and no player attempted more than eight shots. For a variety of reasons — Armaan’s breakout, transfer Ben Vander Plas, McKneely — this year’s offense is significantly more multifaceted than the 2021-22 squad, which will be key against higher-level competition.
This team’s three-point shooting is for real
It doesn’t look like the scorching performance the ‘Hoos put together in their season opener was a fluke. Virginia drilled 13 of their 25 three-point attempts (52%) after knocking down 11 last game. McKneely set the pace with four triples, while Armaan Franklin, Kihei Clark, and Ben Vander Plas added two threes apiece.
The confidence that this team shoots with from beyond the arc with is night-and-day from last season. They won’t shoot 48% from beyond the arc all season long like they have so far, but there’s been clear improvement nonetheless.
Isaac McKneely, Ryan Dunn deserve spots in the rotation
In addition to the aforementioned leading scorer McKneely, fellow freshman Ryan Dunn left his mark on the game. Dunn made his season debut for the Cavaliers and immediately flashed on both sides of the ball, knocking down a three on offense and seamlessly defending at both the 3 and 4 — once he entered the game, Monmouth scored just two baskets in 12 minutes of game time. Dunn finished with 13 points and a +36 plus-minus.
Dunn and McKneely aren’t just good for freshmen — they’re straight-up good. Both should be regular parts of the rotation, and have skillsets that no one else on the roster can replicate. We’ll have to wait until next season for a verdict on redshirts Leon Bond and Isaac Traudt, but the early returns on a much-hyped freshman class are extremely promising.
A solid defensive turnaround after a rough season opener
Virginia’s defense looked a bit shaky at times in the season opener against North Carolina Central, a team experienced against the pack line that was able to pick apart some back-side rotations on occasion and generate open looks. Paired with a few missed assignments and some nice shot-making, NC Central put up a solid 61 points on the ‘Hoos.
Tonight, Monmouth started the game on a similar pace, scoring 13 points in the game’s first 6:37 en route to a 13-10 lead. Over the game’s remaining 33:23, though, the Hawks were utterly toothless, scoring just 29 points and ultimately recording 21 turnovers. They shot 39% from the field and made only three three-pointers; even when Virginia played some unusual lineup combinations down the stretch, their defensive intensity persisted.
Virginia’s starting big men need to find consistency
If there was a nit to pick in this game, it would be the slow start to the season for Virginia’s big men. Jayden Gardner picked up his second foul of the first half with 8:01 remaining, and sat the remainder of the period. He picked up two more fouls early in the second half and finished with just 9 points on 3-7 shooting. Gardner has played just 36 minutes in the first two games of the year.
Kadin Shedrick once again found his way into the game as it progressed, much like in the season opener. However, some overaggressiveness and slow recoveries defensively by Shedrick helped stick Virginia in their early rut. He’s still prone to occasionally chase blocks to the detriment of the team. Neither of these notes really matter in a 47-point victory, but it’d be good to see Virginia’s starting bigs put together a consistent game against Northern Iowa on Monday before being thrown into the fire next Friday against Baylor.