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Virginia Men's Basketball

Five Takeaways from UVA’s Win Over Miami

Coming off a three game losing streak, the Wahoos came out on top of a poor Miami team on Monday night. With the win, I’ve got five key takeaways for UVA moving forward. 

The staff goes away from the Clark-Beekman pairing 

The most notable development coming from this game is undoubtedly that the staff experimented with various lineups to try. Most notably, they used the Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman pairing in the backcourt much less than in previous contests. 

Despite averaging 35 minutes (Clark) and just over 30 minutes (Beekman) per game in conference play, the two each played just 28 against Miami. They played 16 minutes on the floor together and 12 each without the other on the floor. In many ways, that freed up the offense because emphasizing the presence of multiple shooters as movers in the mover-blocker offense made life much easier for the ‘Hoos on that side of the ball. 

By decreasing the minutes that Clark and Beekman played together, the staff addressed the issues the offense had of late with those two in the backcourt. While neither is a bad player, they limit the offense when playing together since neither are high volume threats from the perimeter and each is a pass-first point guard. 

Additionally, the return of Tomas Woldetensae proved critical as, even though he finished with just three points, his magnetism as a shooter coming off the pin down and flare screens of that sides offense changes how defenses play UVA by spreading the floor. 

Reece Beekman impresses on both ends

Playing more minutes as point guard than he has previously, Beekman impressed on both ends of the floor against Miami. 

Offensively

On offense, Beekman kept the offense humming and allowed others to execute against a bad Miami defense. In fact, it was his low usage rate (7.5%) in the mover-blocker set that made the offense so smoothly as he focused on setting up shooters and keeping the ball movement. The mover-blocker is meant to generate an equality of touches for the three movers and Beekman ensured that. 

While Beekman’s passiveness was an issue when playing as a shooting guard against stiffer competition, this type of play was incredibly valuable against a Miami team that didn’t switch against the mover-blocker offense which allowed Beekman to focus on keeping the ball hot and utilizing the shooting he was playing alongside. 

Part of why Beekman had a more significant impact on this game than Clark was because Clark is the guy UVA relies on when they need more playmaking and shot creating from its point guard. But, against MIami (who, again, didn’t switch which allowed UVA to play within their offense) Beekman was the better option as he’s more fluid within the offense while Clark is capable of making plays outside of it that the ‘Hoos didn’t need on Monday.

Defensively

On the other end of the floor, Beekman played great defense against Isaiah Wong. A dynamic scorer who puts up over 17 per game, Wong struggled against Beekman in particular. The first year guard utilized his quick feet to stay in front of Wong and his length to disrupt the Miami guard’s patent step back jumper.

On the night, Wong finished with just 10 points on 3-13 shooting with four turnovers and just two assists. That’s in large part a result of just how well Beekman guarded him. 

Justin McKoy shines

In the most minutes he’s played since the season opener, Justin McKoy had an encouraging performance against the Hurricanes. His eight points, six rebounds, and two steals gave the ‘Hoos a big boost of energy off the bench that they’ve lacked all season long. 

It seems as if McKoy is growing into a larger role on this roster. His all-out effort and high intensity hustle are unmatched as he’s starting to display the scoring punch that made him such an intriguing prospect out of high school. 

In fact, that’s the role that the coaching staff envisioned for McKoy when they recruited him back in the spring and early summer of 2019. Sure he may be similar in stature and energy to Isaiah Wilkins, but McKoy should fill an Anthony Gill mold as a guy who can score in the frontcourt. Of course, he doesn’t have the post game that Gill did in his last year or two as a Wahoo, but the second year McKoy is showing glimpses of really nice offensive potential. 

Undoubtedly, McKoy could prove pivotal down the final stretch for UVA. He provides a change-up look in the frontcourt and is a solid defender as anmore traditional Bennett frontcourt big. If he keeps producing offensively ought to continue to play 10-20 minutes off the bench per contest.

An ugly win doesn’t tell us much

That said, this game really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about this team. Miami was not a good opponent and an 11-point win doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Despite Miami’s poor and limited defense, the ‘Hoos still only scored just 1.06 points per possession. 

There were stretches where UVA looked nearly unstoppable on offense and fairly stingy defensively. But, in terms of a forty-minute performance, it’s hard to be super pleased with Monday’s game. Nevertheless, a win is a win and Virginia stopped the bleeding. 

As ever, it’s on to the next one as the ‘Hoos look to propel themselves into 1st place in the ACC with a win against Louisville and a loss from Florida State in one of the Seminoles’ last two games of the regular season. 

Thank you, seniors

Of course, as Monday was senior night and the final game at JPJ this season, I’d be remiss to not mention and emphasize the contributions of UVA’s six seniors. 

No matter the span of time they spent in Charlottesville, Jay Huff, Sam Hauser, and Tomas Woldetensae have all had significant impacts on this program. Watching Huff grow and develop from the scrawny boy who arrived on Grounds in 2016 to the grizzled NBA-prospect of a man he is now has been a treat, while Woldetensae’s arrival on the biggest stage in college basketball has been nothing short of inspirational, and Hauser’s one active season has been spectacular as he’s shaping Tony Bennett’s re-evaluation of his ideal frontcourt. 

Walk-on Austin Katstra has been a mainstay of the bench mob since 2017 as a top-notch celebration coordinator. By losing to UMBC his first year, winning a National Championship his second, and enduring two straight COVID-19 shortened seasons, Katstra has had as unique a college experience as it gets. 

Additionally, senior managers Matt Palumbo and Carter Furr have each done so much for this program over the last four years. They don’t get the attention or the appreciation that they deserve, but their value cannot be understated.

(Image – Andrew Shurtleff – Daily Progress)

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