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Rapid reaction: Three takeaways from Virginia's 62-51 win over Miami

Rapid reaction: Three takeaways from Virginia's 62-51 win over Miami

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Virginia guard Kihei Clark, right, passes the ball around Miami center Nysier Brooks during the game Monday in Charlottesville. Virginia defeated Miami 62-51.

Miami isn’t the team it expected to be in the preseason. Injuries have decimated the Hurricanes, and it showed Monday night.

Virginia (16-6, 12-4 ACC) took advantage, beating Miami (7-16, 3-15 ACC) despite not playing close to its best basketball. The Cavaliers went cold from the floor in the second half, but still beat the overmatched Hurricanes, 62-51.

Here are three takeaways from Virginia’s win, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

Welcome to March

With Monday’s win, Virginia improves to 11-1 in March since the start of the 2018-19 season.

The Cavaliers won the national championship in the 2018-19 season, playing fantastic basketball down the stretch. Last season, UVa went 2-0 in March before COVID-19 shut the season down.

This year, Virginia entered March on a three-game losing streak. Uncharacteristically, UVa was playing subpar basketball near the end of a season. The team’s result improved Monday, but the performance left something to be desired yet again.

UVa opened March with a win, but the team’s toughest tests lie ahead.

Nothing will be easy the rest of the way for the Cavaliers. They play at Louisville on Saturday. The Cardinals face Virginia Tech on Wednesday, hoping to extend their winning streak to three games. They won an overtime contest at Duke over the weekend.

Following the matchup with Louisville, ACC Tournament play arrives. After that, it’s the Big Dance.

In all likelihood, there won’t be any teams of Miami’s caliber left on the schedule. It only gets more challenging from here.

March has been good to UVa the past two seasons. Will it be as kind this year?

Bench contributes in big way

Virginia went deep into its bench Monday night. Nine players logged at least eight minutes in the first half, as Tony Bennett gave plenty of guys chances early against the Hurricanes.

Later in the night, the Cavaliers were able to get senior Austin Katstra into the game in the final minute of his Senior Night.

Among the most notable bench contributors was sophomore forward Justin McKoy. The active defender and aggressive rebounder showcased his offensive game Monday, knocking down jump shots and attacking the rim. As a result, he finished with eight points, six rebounds and two steals.

Reece Beekman, a freshman guard, came off the bench for the first time since the ACC opener at Notre Dame on Dec. 30. Beekman had started every other conference games. Senior Tomas Woldetensae started in his place.

Giving a variety of players more minutes allowed the starters to lift less of the scoring load. UVa scored 13 bench points over its last two games. It tallied 20 bench points Monday.

It is unclear how well the deeper lineup might work against better teams than Miami, but players like McKoy can contribute when given opportunities.

Long scoring droughts worrisome

Throughout this season, UVa’s offense has gone ice cold for stretches at a time. The Cavaliers dealt with that issue again Monday.

After dropping 41 points in the first half, UVa scored nine points in the first 12 minutes of the second half. The offense took some decent shots, but they didn’t fall. Fortunately for Virginia, the missed shots and lengthy scoring droughts didn’t cost it against Miami.

Virginia shot just 32.1% from the floor in the second half, making just 23.1% of its 3-pointers. The Wahoos didn’t attempt a free throw in the second half after taking nine in the opening 20 minutes.

When better teams arrive on the schedule, the prolonged stretches without scoring are major cause for concern.

The Cavaliers possess plenty of scoring threats, but they need increased consistency on the offensive end. Players like redshirt seniors Sam Hauser and Jay Huff need to step up during those offensive lulls and take control of the game. They’ve shown the ability to score against just about any foe, and Virginia desperately needs their talent and experience when the scoring slows.

UVa can be great offensively, but it needs to avoid long stretches without points once single-elimination postseason play arrives.

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