(Image – Erin Edgerton – Daily Progress)
In a slog of a game, UVA came out on top with a solid win over a decent Pittsburgh team. Perhaps a microcosm of the season as a whole, the ‘Hoos had their highs and lows as they pulled out a seven point win over the Panthers.
Hot shooting, but sloppy play
While the ‘Hoos struggled offensively in the first half, the shooters came to play in the second as Tomas Woldetensae, Sam Hauser, and Jay Huff all started to knock down triples as they buried the Panthers. Yet, while the game felt all but over at the seven minute mark in the second half, Pitt proceeded to go on a 21-11 run to close the game and bring it within seven points.
For the first time this season, UVA had real issues beating the press as Pitt put pressure on guys like Sam Hauser to bring the ball up. The ‘Hoos coughed the ball up far too many times late in the game and, had it not been for the earlier hot shooting, likely would have lost as they kept giving the Panthers chances to pull the game back.
Tomas Woldetensae performing, but at what cost?
Despite not scoring in the previous four games, Woldetensae showed up Saturday evening with his best performance of the season. Shooting 4-5 from three and notching fourteen points, Woldetensae jumped ahead of Casey Morsell as the third guard in the rotation.
The competition between these two for minutes at that spot will be something to watch down the line. Woldetensae really only adds value when he’s knocking down threes. While Morsell brings more defensively, his offense has fallen off a bit of late. The dynamic between the two is interesting as Woldetensae may be the better short term, win-now option while Morsell is the guy who UVA will be hoping can keep developing with more time on the court. Morsell’s opportunities down the stretch this season could prove critical for his career at UVA as he looks to develop into a Devon Hall type of player for the ‘Hoos.
Further offensive adjustments
While we saw more spread ball screen actions against N.C. State, UVA relied on its traditional sides offense against Pitt. While, in the first half, the shooting struggles of Reece Beekman and Kihei Clark slowed things down, the second half shooting from Wodletensae and Hauser coming off the pin down and flare screens in mover blocker made the set fairly effective. There’s still a lack of paint touches especially from the guards in this offense as the roster lacks the big guards or slashers who are capable of getting to the rim. Nonetheless, when the movers shoot like they did against the Wolfpack, the interior presence is much less critical.
Kadin Shedrick returning soon
All signs point to Shedrick returning to the floor soon. Since Shedrick participated in warmups and dressed for the last two games, I would wager that the redshirt first year returns to the lineup in the next week or so. He’ll provide a real lift for this team off the bench as his ability in the post on offense and dynamic help and on-ball defense will be a great complement to Jay Huff off the bench.
Schedule about to ramp up
While nabbing two straight wins after the VT loss is encouraging, now is when things get real again. Wednesday’s contest at Georgia Tech will be a tough matchup as the Yellow Jackets played the ‘Hoos to the wire back when they came to JPJ in January. Then, while Saturday’s game against North Carolina is likely to be postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Tarheel program, UVA will travel to Tallahassee to play Florida State in what will be a matchup of the ACC’s two best teams. A week after that game, ‘Hoos will head down to Durham to play a struggling Duke squad. While the Blue Devils haven’t been anywhere near their best this season, it’s still Duke, Mike Kryzewski, and the game is in Cameron Indoor.
This next stretch of games will likely determine where Virginia finishes in ACC play and define the success of the regular season as the ‘Hoos hope to continue improving their resume leading into postseason play.