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Five takeaways from UVA basketball’s bounce-back rivalry win over Virginia Tech

The Cavaliers kept Virginia Tech at arm’s length to pull out a 66-57 victory.

Virginia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team grabbed a huge rivalry win at JPJ 66-57. From the under 12 timeout, the ‘Hoos were relatively in control the whole way, but seemingly every time they were about to cement their lead, the Hokies made a mini run to hang around.

Nonetheless, UVA did enough offensively while performing to the highest of their capability on defense. The Hokies were held to just 21 of 54(38.9%) from the field and turned the ball over 15 times. Here are five takeaways from a much needed victory:

From a realistic standpoint, this is the optimal outcome for tonight’s game

Needless to say, the ‘Hoos had struggled mightily coming into tonight. They had fallen in three of their last four and four of their previous six, all losses coming by double digits. And from these contests, it has become abundantly clear that this team has a plethora of problems and a limited ceiling.

I don’t think any of us would have been shocked if the Cavaliers fell by any capacity in this emotional game. However, they went out and won relatively comfortably. And they did so by playing their style, just to a much higher level than the recent past.

There is still a long way to go to salvage this season, and get back in the NCAA Tournament picture. The elephant in the room is, of course, let’s see UVA do this on the road. Still, given the current situation, you could not ask anything more from tonight’s rivalry game at home.

THIS is what Tony brought in Jordan Minor to do

After averaging just 2.5 points per game previously, Minor led the ‘Hoos with 16 points in his second ACC start. In other words, he accounted for over 25% of his season points total in this game alone.

In the week’s leading up to tonight, we saw flashes of what Minor could be and claimed he had the best chance of becoming a productive true big on UVA’s current roster. He simply lacked any sort of confidence and looked lost on the defense.

Tonight was a completely different story. For starters, Minor was a lockdown defender in the post, using his strong frame to prevent opposing bigs from getting positioning and clearing the glass to finish possessions. Hokies center Lynn Kidd was held to to just 2 points, compared to a season average of 14.8.

Plus, while Minor’s offensive skillset is clearly limited, especially as a finisher, he took advantage of the opportunities Virginia Tech’s defensive coverage presented. Several times tonight, the pick-and-roll, where he made his living at Merrimack, resulted in layups or shooting fouls. Minor also appears to be UVA’s best option as a blocker in the offensive half- court setting, facilitating open looks for shooters.

Furthermore, Blake Buchanan provided some good minutes spelling Minor. He converted on 4-5 from the field, all quality shots around the rim. Buchanan’s athleticism gives him a much higher ceiling but from a defensive rebounding perspective and now with the ability to execute the mover-blocker and pack line, Minor is the better option for the foreseeable future.

UVA took significantly better jump shots today

Many of the times UVA’s offense have struggled, particularly in the previous few games, was because they could not get clean threes and resorted into late shot clock long mid-range twos. Tonight, the execution was night and day difference in that department.

Jake Groves had four relatively clean looks off the pick-and-pop, converting on two of them. Isaac McKneely technically did not hit a three, but multiple times, he curled off pin downs to knock down open looks. Of course, his foot was on the line on both occasions, but for the purpose of this analysis, we will call them quality threes. Reece Beekman also let a couple rip from long range when the defender went under the screen or sagged off, due to his threat to get downhill.

Even the other shots were relatively good. Andrew Rohde had some clean looks; he just has to start knocking them down. That is a conversation for another time. Dante Harris took a couple from the mid-range but they were relatively open short mid-range shots. Overall, a huge step in the right direction in the shooting department.

Welcome back, Dante Harris!

UVA has needed their backup point guard back in the lineup, desperately. Elijah Gertrude has flashed but clearly has not earned the trust of Bennett yet. Harris, on the other hand, was a major different maker.

He is a quality on-ball defender, which allowed Beekman to focus on Sean Pedulla, and become the first defender to contain him in weeks. Meanwhile, he provides the same ball handling presence as Gertrude, but the difference between a veteran and a first-year in college basketball when it comes to decision-making is evident. Harris had five assists to zero turnovers tonight, including a pair of dimes that led to wide open Minor dunks.

Isaac McKneely continues to become more well-rounded

The second-year player is known for his outside shooting and sometimes when he has not been able to get his desired looks, the limitations in the rest of his game shine brighter. This contest was a huge step in the right direction.

McKneely got to the rim twice, both times taking advantage of the defender heavily pursuing him at the three-point line. He was able to cut towards the basket, once resulting to an easy lay-up and the other, leading to a trip to the line.

Additionally, McKneely is an underrated rebounder for a guard, and he had a huge one down the stretch in this game. As he continues to improve his footwork defensively, it is encouraging to see the sharpshooter contribute in other ways.