CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — When De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome all declared for the NBA Draft, it became evident the 2019-20 Virginia men’s basketball team would experience growing pains.
The shooting, understandably, has been worse this season. Shooting from 3-point range across all of college basketball has dipped with the line moving back this season, but the Cavaliers (11-3, 3-1 ACC) are among the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country.
There’s limited experience on the floor at times, especially in the backcourt. Those flaws were glaring in Tuesday’s loss to Boston College, and to make matters worse, the Cavaliers lacked energy.
“We can’t absorb us not being at a high level of readiness,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the loss. “There are not a lot of teams in college basketball that can, but we definitely can’t.”
It’s not the first time Bennett’s inexperienced group lacked the intensity needed to win this season. About a month ago, in a 69-40 loss at Purdue, the Cavaliers struggled to maintain the physical intensity and effort needed to keep pace with the Boilermakers.
Purdue dominated in the post and quickly put the game out of reach.
“They really came out and punched us in the face,” Virginia point guard Kihei Clark said after the Purdue defeat. “They were pretty motivated for this game, and I thought we came out pretty slow, and we didn’t match their intensity coming out.”
Lacking energy and intensity can prove even more hurtful in road games, as an overwhelmingly supportive crowd isn’t there to boost the team’s energy.
Conte Forum, home of Boston College’s basketball games, did welcome hundreds of loud Virginia fans Tuesday, though. The hostility paled in comparison to that of Purdue’s Mackey Arena. Despite an easier road venue, the Cavaliers still fell to the shorthanded Eagles.
While the road venue wasn’t as hostile, it also wasn’t nearly as energizing as a home game at John Paul Jones Arena or even road games at Syracuse and Purdue.
“I know it wasn’t the best crowd out here, but that’s no excuse for coming out with no energy, and we gotta fix that,” Clark said.
Clark called the Cavaliers “lethargic” when discussing the opening portion of the first half.
Virginia fell behind 18-8 to open the game. Boston College also went on a 12-4 run to open the second half. Outside of those two stretches, Virginia outscored the Eagles 41-30.
“We came in a bit soft straight away,” Virginia guard Kody Stattmann said of the effort level. “I think we just need to bring more energy because we knew the stadium wasn’t going to bring a lot of energy, so we just needed to find our own energy, and we didn’t.”
Given Virginia’s impressive victory over Virginia Tech in the game prior and a gutsy, physical win over North Carolina earlier this season, the Cavaliers are more than capable of performing with high energy.
Finding that energy consistently is the next step for an inexperienced team.
“I thought we played with such great heart and passion and intensity against Virginia Tech,” Bennett said. “I did not see that in the way it had to be here.”
Bennett called the effort level against Boston College “lukewarm.” Finding better energy on the road will prove to be an important step if UVa wants to stay atop the ACC standings.
The Cavaliers’ next road trip comes next Wednesday at Florida State. The Seminoles are 8-0 at home this season, and seven of those wins have come by double digits. They also recently secured a road win against Louisville. Leonard Hamilton’s team is a legitimate ACC title contender.
UVa can ill afford another low-energy showing if it wants to take down the Seminoles.