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Five takeaways from Virginia basketball’s quality road win over Florida State

The ‘Hoos took down the ‘Noles 80-76 for their fourth straight road victory and eight consecutive overall.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia travelled to Tallahassee on Saturday night to grab another impressive road victory and remain hot. The Cavaliers improve to 19-5 and remain one game behind first-place North Carolina at 10-3 in ACC play.

As a team, UVA shot 10-of-18 (55.6%) from three point range and 26-for-52 (50.0%) overall. Isaac McKneely led the way with a career high 29 points, while Reece Beekman posted 21. Here is what we are taking away from the win.

Virginia wins on the road once again

As we have seen before, a double digit lead at the under four timeout did not amount to a stress free ending. Some bad fouls, key turnovers, and imperfect free throw shooting gave Florida State hope in the final minute. But the bottom line is that the ‘Hoos eventually sealed the deal and continue to win games away from home.

This is a major progression from early in conference play when UVA looked like two completely different teams at JPJ versus on the road. At one point, Virginia was 0-3 in ACC road games with all losses coming by a margin greater than 15 points. Nonetheless, the youth has matured quickly and the Cavaliers have handled the bulk of the ACC regardless of location.

Isaac McKneely continues to expand his offensive game

The Poca, West Virginia native (his high school’s nickname was the ‘Dots’ by the way) is a sharpshooter approaching 50% from three-point range on the season, but this is not a new development. Defenses have recognized his threat to shoot off the catch and limitless range and guarded accordingly. In the recent past and specifically today, McKneely showed he is a much more well-rounded offensive player.

He is comfortable with the ball in his hands and creating off the dribble. McKneely was able to get down hill and utilize his floater multiple times, where he is much more efficient than earlier in the season. He will also be fed in the high post from time to time. The step back three where he used his quick release to take advantage of a length defender sagging off was sweet.

Perhaps most importantly, McKneely was able to get to the line multiple times, where he is by far the best on the team at converting. Those are the progressions McKneely have brought from a role player to a borderline offensive star.

Virginia handles Florida State’s athleticism

To preface, this Seminoles squad is nowhere near as capable as the one that 20-pieced the ‘Hoos in a top 15 matchup in 2021. Still, this is a Leonard Hamilton squad that prides itself in athleticism and versatility.

Throughout the game, the ‘Noles applied backcourt pressure towards UVA, something that has been their achilles heel in the Bennett era. While Virginia had a few blunders, they handled the press with relative ease, with McKneely, Dante Harris, and even Andrew Rohde acting as capable ball-handlers to complement Beekman. This allowed the Cavaliers to consistently get into their half court offense, where they were absolutely lethal.

This was one of Virginia’s most complete half court offensive performances of the season

Plenty of criticism has been given to Virginia’s offensive sets this year but tonight, they were absolutely cooking on all cylinders. With Jordan Minor in foul trouble and only playing 12 minutes, Bennett often shied away from typical mover-blocker principles in favor of more flowing action.

Tonight featured something that is rare in UVA basketball games: no major offensive droughts. Their performance on the defensive end was solid but far from perfect. The Cavaliers maintained their lead throughout the game because they scored in all stages, always having the answer to a key FSU basket.

Virginia’s front court depth overcame foul trouble from the starters

Minor’s 12 minutes were 11 fewer than his average since the Wake Forest game. Blake Buchanan played some huge minutes to spell. He has room to be polished on both ends, particularly at executing the hard hedge, but his competence in guarding the post was critical.

Furthermore, Ryan Dunn played 7 minutes below his season average, which allowed Jake Groves time to shine. Groves is lightyears from the defensive player that Dunn is but no longer a liability on that end either. Plus, he adds an outside offensive threat off of the pop that Dunn does not offer.

After this huge road win, the Cavaliers return home on Tuesday to host the red hot Pittsburgh Panthers.