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Rapid reaction: Three takeaways from Virginia's 68-61 loss to N.C. State

Rapid reaction: Three takeaways from Virginia's 68-61 loss to N.C. State

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Virginia coach Tony Bennett reacts to a play during Wednesday’s loss to N.C. State at John Paul Jones Arena.

The Virginia men’s basketball team returned home after losing to Florida State and Duke primed to return to the win column.

The Cavaliers, who entered Wednesday’s game against N.C. State undefeated at home, were 11.5-point favorites against the Wolfpack.

Instead of turning the page on a rough chapter, the Cavaliers (15-6, 11-4 ACC) added another page to their losing streak, which grows to three games after a lackluster showing in a 68-61 loss to N.C. State (11-9, 7-8 ACC).

Here are three takeaways from Virginia’s upset loss.

Ugly game

UVa’s strength for much of this season has been its efficient offense. The Cavaliers shoot the ball effectively from 3-point range and can run away from teams when they’re hot.

The Wahoos were ice cold from the 3-point line against the Wolfpack, going an abysmal 1-for-9 from 3-point range in the first half. Kihei Clark chalked up the team’s lone make from beyond the arc.

Sam Hauser opened the second half by making a pair of 3-pointers and turning a six-point halftime deficit into a tie. Virginia seemed ready to pull away from an inferior opponent.

Instead, the shooting woes continued. Virginia finished the game shooting 7-of-25 from beyond the 3-point line.

The defense failed to consistently create stops, leaving Tony Bennett hanging his head after several defensive possessions.

The Cavaliers have some blowout defeats on the resume this season, but they rarely fall to middle-of-the-pack foes. Wednesday, the Cavaliers looked borderline uninterested during their loss to the Wolfpack.

McKoy a spark plug

Justin McKoy hadn’t played 10 or more minutes in a game since Jan. 6. Wednesday, the Cavaliers trusted the sophomore forward with 16 minutes.

McKoy brought a much-needed spark off the bench.

He crashed the glass, even being called for a foul trying to secure an offensive rebound. The willingness to attack the basket and rebound aggressively was much needed. The Cavaliers looked lethargic in the opening minutes Wednesday. McKoy was anything but.

The North Carolina native finished the game with four points, three offensive rebounds and an assist. He brought impressive energy on both ends of the floor.

Throughout the season, UVa has been a strong offensive team with good shooters. The Cavaliers are extremely skilled. Shooting and touch aren’t typically issues for UVa, but Bennett has questioned the team’s toughness at times.

Could McKoy bring added toughness and energy off the bench as the team heads into postseason action? Stay tuned.

Losing streak continues

UVa fans likely won’t want to re-watch Wednesday’s game. The shooting was inconsistent, and the team looked out of sorts at times.

Bennett looked dejected after several defensive possessions. The Cavaliers didn’t look like a top-tier defensive unit, allowing far too many easy looks near the basket. Offensively, the team looked disjointed.

UVa’s recent play creates some cause for concern. The Cavaliers struggle against the top teams in the league, but they’ve been steady against mediocre foes. Wednesday, at home, the Cavaliers were average against an N.C. State team hovering around .500.

The Cavaliers have lost three games in a row as the season nears its most crucial juncture.

Only two games remain until the ACC Tournament. UVa needs to see improvement before the conference tournament if it wants any shot of earning the conference’s automatic berth.

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