Likely the most enjoyable win in a while, Virginia’s drubbing of Boston College was the epitome of this team’s recent offensive outburst. 6-1 in their last seven games, the ‘Hoos are in a groove heading into the final stretch of the regular season. With only five games left, here are five takeaways from Wednesday night’s victory.
An offensive explosion
The Cavs found their rhythm early on, and would go on to record a season-high in points, as this was the first game in ten years with five players in double-figures. Huff was effective from the get-go, scoring ten of the team’s first twelve points. The offense would stall out for a stretch, but scored ten points in the final 2:24 of the half with Braxton Key running the offense.
Valuable rim protection
On the defensive end, Key, Huff, and Diakite combined for nine blocks. In fact, a strength of this team that has been relatively off the radar has been this team’s proficiency for blocking shots. They’re 8th in the country in block rate at 15.7%, which is 1.8% better than any Tony Bennett coached Virginia team. Huff and Diakite are each in the top-150 in block rate nationwide, Huff at 9.9% (34th) and Diakite at 5.5% (134th). As the lineup of Clark, Woldetensae, Key, Diakite, and Huff has become Bennett’s go-to grouping, that length in the frontcourt has been a major advantage defensively since, even after opposing teams beat the packline, their success is erased. That shot-blocking ability makes up for a good number of this team’s mistakes, and greatly contributes to how successful this defense has been.
But… necessary rim protection
That said, for blocks to be necessary, defensive lapses are as well, and Wednesday night was no exception. While the Cavs won by thirteen points and the offensive success masked any defensive deficiencies, Boston College scored the fourth most points against the ‘Hoos this season. Considering BC was missing their leading scorer in Derryck Thornton, and that the Eagles’ offense is rated 212th in the country, that shouldn’t have happened, and won’t cut it moving forward.
Kihei Clark, wow
While this was a team win if there ever was one, Clark’s performance was second to none as he put up seventeen points on 6-12 shooting, 5-5 from the charity stripe, to go with eight assists and only two turnovers. Despite first half foul trouble, Kihei took control in the second and ensured that the ‘Hoos coasted to a comfortable victory.
Considering Clark’s extremely high minutes this season (91.7% of possible minutes played, 22nd most nationally) it’s worth noting that he only played thirty-one minutes in this contest. Perhaps given Clark’s second half success, Bennett will be more prone to rest the second year point guard and let guys like Key and Woldetensae take on the lead ball handling role for longer stretches.
Two critical road games upcoming
Now with that contest in the win column, Virginia goes on the road for their next two matchups at Pitt and VT. These two games will be crucial for the team’s NCAA tournament aspirations, as a loss in either circumstance would likely force them into a scenario where they need a win over either Duke or Louisville. Win both, and do the job in Miami on the fourth, and the ‘Hoos should be well on their way to a tournament bid.