By beating the Syracuse Orange 72-69, UVA pulled out a late win to pick up the program’s first postseason victory since April 4th, 2019. With the win I have five takeaways for the ‘Hoos as they head deeper into postseason play.
Reece Beekman is clutch
With the game tied 69-69 and the final seconds winding down, Kihei Clark appeared to have nothing. Level headed as ever, Clark drove the middle of the zone and kicked out to Reece Beekman.
Before that moment Beekman had shot 0-5 from the field on the day and 0-2 from deep with two pretty bad misses from behind the arc. He was scoreless and had played a fairly mediocre game in his first postseason performance. In fact, Syracuse deliberately played off of the first year point guard all night long in order to run Trey Murphy and Sam Hauser off the line and force Beekman to hit shots.
Well, as a long line of first year Bennett point guards have before him, Beekman made the shot when he needed to.
What does that mean for this team moving forward? Not a ton. It’s great to know that, if given the opportunity, Beekman can make it count despite the fact that he hasn’t shot the ball well on the season.
But for the future of this program this moment is significant. Beekman is the future of the point guard position for Virginia and this should only help him to build confidence as he continues to progress.
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The shooters hit shots when it matters most
Despite struggling for large stretches of the game, UVA’s offensive weapons hit their shots when it mattered most. On the day, Hauser and Murphy combined to shoot 6-21 from three-point range but each came up huge in the final minutes
With a pair of triples and two free throws, the Rice transfer scored eight of his 15-points in the final 3:38 of play while Hauser added seven points of his own in the final six minutes of the second half.
With Jay Huff roaming the interior of the Orange’s 2-3 zone, Murphy and Hauser’s impact from the perimeter was all that much more important. Their struggles for the majority of the game were fairly synonymous with UVA’s offensive issues. Without those two making shots consistently the ‘Hoos had to rely on the Jay Huff making plays in the middle of the zone which — while effective in small doses — wasn’t a high volume option.
Ideally those two will continue to shoot like they did in the final minutes moving forward.
This is what UVA does in the postseason
Reflecting on this game it’s difficult to not immediately relate it to the 2019 championship run. Believe it or not, this is the program’s first postseason win since De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and the team of destiny cut down the nets in Minneapolis.
And, just as that team did over and over again, the ‘Hoos pulled out a close, nail-biter of a victory with a buzzer beater of their own. Long gone are the days of questioning Virginia’s chops in March and in tournament play off system alone.
More than anything it’s good to see this team win a close game. There have been question marks regarding the squad’s ability to manufacture points with the clock winding down late as the ‘Hoos have dropped a few close games they should’ve won this season. This game was by no means a perfect performance but this is the type of game they’ll have to win to continue to be successful in March.
This type of play isn’t sustainable
With that said, the full, 40-minute performance from Virginia today isn’t sustainable. Turning the ball over 12 times, giving up 11 offensive rebounds, and shooting 35 three-pointers isn’t good Bennett-basketball.
Of course, the high volume of threes was partially a result of Syracuse’s zone defense. But the ‘Hoos also just settled too often for long, contested triples when they could have looked to penetrate the zone and
On the other side of the ball the defensive rebounding was maddening at times as Syracuse got and capitalized on far too many second chance opportunities. Additionally, the defense seemed to lose Buddy Boeheim for stretches as he put up a ridiculous 31-points on 10-17 shooting and 5-8 from deep.
Additionally, the issues UVA had late against the press was all too familiar as the ‘Hoos let ‘Cuse back in the game after leading by six with 2:09 left.
Hopefully the struggles today were more a result of a matchup result than anything else. Nevertheless, UVA must up the energy — especially early in the game — moving forward else they risk getting upset.
(Image – Woody Marshall – News & Record)