Everybody check their blood pressure, because that was a heart burner. The Virginia Cavaliers bounced back from their blowout loss to Wisconsin with a much needed 56-54 win against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Fort Myers Tipoff consolation game.
With the win and UVA advancing to 5-1 on the young season, we have five takeaways.
Reece Beekman clutches up when UVA needed him
Reece Beekman has a ton of responsibility on his shoulders this season, and so far he’s performed valiantly. He was one of the Wahoos’ lone bright spots in Monday’s defeat, and he absolutely clutched up late in the game against West Virginia.
In the last 2:45 of regulation, Beekman scored five points and willed his way to the basket for the Cavaliers three separate times. Starting with a turnaround jumper to put the Cavaliers up by three, he followed that up with a late shot clock drive and finish at the rim past Jesse Edwards, and then added the go ahead free throw after drawing a foul on a pull-up jumper near the basket with two seconds on the clock.
In 36 minutes, Beekman scored 12 points (5-11 FG, 0-4 3PT, 1-2 FT), added five assists, grabbed four rebounds, and had an impressive four steals. He also turned the ball over four times and probably tried to do a little bit too much on offense at times. But he’s proven to be elite at taking care of the ball while making plays, so that shouldn’t be any serious problem moving forward.
Virginia looks to Beekman in the biggest moments on offense and on defense. He undoubtedly carries a heavy burden. He made plays when the team needed him to against WVU, and in the end won the ‘Hoos the game. In college basketball, veteran guards are so incredibly valuable, and UVA has one of the absolute best in the country. For the problems this roster does have, Beekman is an out-and-out strength everywhere.
Offensive rebounds win Virginia the game
Well, well, well, how the turntables.
UVA wins the game with a pair of offensive rebounds pic.twitter.com/cT1ODlmIL8— Zach Carey (@Zach_Carey_) November 23, 2023
After allowing offensive rebounds was an issue for the Cavaliers in their first three games against Power-6 competition and they gave up 12 offensive boards and eight second chance points against WVU, Ryan Dunn and Leon Bond flipped the script in the final seconds for the ‘Hoos in this one.
Despite Dunn missing a triple with nine seconds left, Bond tracked the ball down and dished it over to Beekman before he earned the go ahead free throws. Then, even when Beekman missed the second attempt at the line, Dunn skied for the ball and essentially ended the game.
For only having six offensive rebounds relative to West Virginia’s 12, UVA actually rivaled the Mountaineers in second chance points with seven. That’s a testament both to the defense’s ability to recover and to the offense for capitalizing when getting second looks.
UVA’s defensive disruptiveness pays huge dividends
There’s an analytical reality that, in some sense, issues on the defensive boards can be alleviated by creating live ball turnovers — something this Virginia team excels at. UVA nabbed eight steals against the Mountaineers with WVU totaling 16 turnovers, and Virginia scoring a whopping 18 points off said turnovers.
Beekman (four steals) and Dunn (two steals and a block) are particularly elite at creating offense with their defense. Each has fantastic instincts, next level athleticism, great hands, and an impressive ability to read defenses and react quickly. They also both thrive in transition.
If the season ended today, this UVA team would actually be the fastest of the Tony Bennett era with an average of 18.8 seconds per offensive possession (per KenPom). Obviously that’s skewed by three games against mid major competition. But it still speaks to how Dunn and Beekman have created more transition opportunities than Virginia teams of the past.
Through 6 games, Virginia basketball's 18.9% block rate is 3rd in the country and their 15.4% steal rate is 6th.— Zach Carey (@Zach_Carey_) November 23, 2023
If the season ended today, this would be CTB's fastest team at Virginia. Stocks creating transition opportunities like never seen before for UVA w/ Bennett.
Slowing down the rate at which opponents get second possessions is a top priority. But UVA fans can rest assured that the negative impact of such issues can be alleviated by just how uncharacteristically disruptive the Wahoo defense has been.
Sources of offensive creation remain uncertain
The late game heroics cover up some of the issues UVA had throughout this game against an under-manned West Virginia team. There were once again stretches where finding offense outside of Beekman was very difficult. Andrew Rohde and Dante Harris have been unfortunately uninspiring as offensive initiators, and while he went 2-5 from three, Isaac McKneely did shoot 0-4 from two-point range in this game.
wash— Virginia Men's Basketball (@UVAMensHoops) November 23, 2023
⚫ spin pic.twitter.com/bNABoRoEj7
Dunn (13 points) had a huge drive and finish late in the game, and Leon Bond continues to earn minutes with his jump shooting ability. So those two should only continue to to take on more prominent roles with regard to starting the offense. And the guard trio alongside Beekman will improve with time. Yet, right, now there’s not a ton this offense can do beyond asking Beekman to go make a play.
Leon Bond and Ryan Dunn could be a legit frontcourt combo
Back on the positive side of things, the Bond-Dunn combo was an effective ‘death lineup’ for Virginia in this game, earning run late in both halves (partially due to foul trouble for UVA’s true bigs). While used slightly out of necessity against WVU, that pairing up front paid dividends. Bond played a career-high 21 minutes in this game, tied for the sixth most alongside Jake Groves.
If corralling a high rate of defensive rebounds is going to be an issue no matter who is on the floor, rolling out the 6’5” Bond and 6’8” Dunn isn’t as much of a problem since they’re going to be more capable of making plays on either end. It also could allow for UVA to realistically switch 1-5, and their length and versatile skill sets allow for schematic versatility on either end of the floor.
It won’t be Virginia’s starting lineup, and they can still play together alongside another big. But the Bond-Dunn pairing up front should be a valuable trick up Tony Bennett’s rotational sleeve this season.