In the first test of the season, the Virginia Cavaliers were able to pull out the important victory against the Florida Gators, 73-70.
Much will be written in the coming days about the performance the Hoos put up in the 2nd half that saw them put up a similar pattern they have over the past few years that saw them get out to a big lead only for the opponent to come back and tie it up or take the lead.
At the half, in a back and forth first portion of play, the Hoos were able to eek out a 4 point lead, 39-35. Beekman paced the club with 10 points on 4-8 from the field including 2 threes on only 3 attempts. Newcomer Andrew Rohde turned in an impressive +5 first half with 7 points on 3-5 shooting, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 2 steals. Fellow newcomer Dante Harris had 6 points of his own on an impressive 3-3 shooting with 3 offensive rebounds.
In the second half, despite getting out to an 11 point lead, one of the Virginia scoring droughts that have plagued the team over the last few years reared its head in the form of a 12-0 Florida run that saw them take a 55-54 lead with 8 minutes remaining. Over that span the Hoos went more than 6 minutes without a field goal while Florida continued to press and attack the offensive glass.
In the end though, the Cavaliers pulled out the victory thanks to better defense than the Gators. Blake Buchanan and Jacob Groves paced the offensive end with 14 points and 10, respectively. Buchanan himself shot 16 free throws in the second half alone, hitting 10. While Buchanan and Groves were performing on the offensive end, Beekman and McKneely, who UVA needs to put up numbers, were a combined 3 of 12 shooting for 8 points total between the two.
Perhaps the story of the game and something UVA is going to have to fix going forward is the free throw shooting and defensive rebounding. During the dry spells the Hoos had in the second half, poor free throw shooting and Florida’s ability to attack the glass allowed the Gators back in the game and stay there down the stretch.
In the end, UVA shot just 58% (14-24) from the charity stripe and allowed Florida to grab 21 offensive rebounds. Much of that can likely be attributed to Blake Buchanan’s inexperience. The first year, while he did hit crucial free throws down the stretch that helped UVA win the game in the end, missed numerous that could have helped UVA seal the win midway through the second half. His experience and putting on weight will help in the long run on the boards without a doubt.
But overall, this was UVA’s second game of the season featuring an 8 man rotation with 5 newcomers (Bond included). A neutral site win over a top 50 kenpom team should help this team in the long run and help UVA’s tournament resume come March.