Five takeaways from UVA basketball’s win over No. 14 Texas A&M
What we learned from the Wahoos’ huge and strangely easy win.
The Virginia Cavaliers took on the Texas A&M Aggies in straightforward fashion on Wednesday night, beating Buzz Williams’ squad 59-47 and improving to 6-1 on the young season.
With UVA’s first Top 25 win of the season, we have five takeaways.
Virginia is in control of affairs against a top-15 team
The two games in Fort Myers weren’t the most inspiring performances for the Hoos after starting the season 4-0. Losing by 24 points to a mediocre Wisconsin team and then needing a full 40 minutes to beat an undermanned and highly skilled West Virginia team by two was a reality check for a young and inexperienced team.
However, with that youth and inexperience playing together also comes a plethora of elite talent. Despite playing against a team that was arguably built to beat this iteration of the ‘Hoos, UVA dominated this game, especially in the second half.
After leading by a point at halftime, the Cavaliers outscored the Aggies 32-21, winning by 12 points and securing a blowout win heading into their first ACC game of the season on Saturday against Syracuse.
The non-conference schedule has always been an up-and-down affair for Virginia with only one returning player and three rotating players. But against Texas A&M, the potential this team showed was evident. The fact that it’s so early in the season says a lot about how good this team will be in March.
Ryan Dunne grabs the win as a defender
On three straight defensive possessions late in the second half, Ryan Dunn closed out the game for Virginia. He blocked three shots in 76 seconds from the 5:01 mark in the second half to 3:45 left and added a steal 44 seconds later. That helped end a 3:17 scoring drought for the Aggies late in the game and preserved UVA’s double-digit lead during Texas A&M’s last real chance to pull off a comeback.
Dunn finished the game with five blocks and three steals, along with 12 points, five defensive rebounds and a 2-4 shooting performance from beyond the arc. He is still a quality complementary offensive player while being absolutely elite defensively. He changes the dynamic of games as a defender, and never more so than in this match.
That’s a huge benefit for this team, and him having that impact against a team that came in as the fifth-most efficient offense in the country (per KenPom) is a sign that there are no limits to his defensive dominance.
Elijah Gertrude burns his redshirt with Dante Harris out
After rolling his ankle during practice and swelling (according to Tony Bennett), Georgetown’s Dante Harris took the field before this game wearing a shoe and using crutches. Meanwhile, true freshman Elijah Gertrude prepared in full uniform although he originally planned to redshirt this season.
Gertrude proceeded to play for eight minutes, burning his red jersey, and showing off his sportsmanship. After the game, Bennett mentioned that playing Gertrude was under consideration before Harris’ injury occurred as the freshman is fully recovered from a torn ACL last winter and wants to play.
However long Harris is out, it changes the dynamic in UVA’s backfield. From having four experienced college basketball guards and a true backup point guard in Reece Beekman, the ‘Hoos are down to three without a clearly defined secondary starter. At the same time, Gertrude’s activity now gives the Hoosiers more height and perhaps more scoring presence in the backcourt.
Essentially, Gertrude is a roof-top, basement replacement for Harris. He is an elite athlete at 6’3″ and has the ability to be a Reece Beckman-type defender on the ball. He’s fast, long, has great hands, ridiculous jumps, and can block shots.
Offensively, he’s not a passing player like Harris, and will be less of a starter and more of a complementary contributor. Assuming Harris returns before long as Bennett indicated, Gertrude brings depth to the backcourt and a valuable different dimension.
UVA survives the Aggies’ attack on the boards
Virginia did not limit Texas A&M on the glass. Well, they still dominated as the Aggies rebounded on 43.9% of their misses and scored 16 points on those 18 chances.
However, those 16 points also accounted for just 34% of Texas A&M’s points, and UVA blocked eight shots en route to Buzz Williams scoring just .758 points per possession. This defense is easily top-10 in the country no matter how many second chances they miss, largely due to their ability to block shots and create live turnovers. In fact, the Cavaliers recorded eight steals and added 10 points on turnovers.
Whichever way you choose, elite defense is officially back in Charlottesville.
Andrew Rudd shines as a creator
He didn’t have a more efficient night, as one of his three threes went in, and he coughed up the ball three times, but Andrew Rudd was Virginia’s leading scorer and played the most minutes in the “Hoos vs. Aggies” game. He scored 13 points on 5-14 shooting from deep and 3-8 from deep. He added three assists and had a team-high +16 on the night.
Having Ruud as another guy who can make shots and attack well was crucial especially after there was so little of that outside of Reece Beckman in Fort Myers. Rudd needs to be more efficient. But bottom line, he puts points on the board as a passer, shooter and driver, which is what this team needs especially with Beckman’s knee injury.
As he gets more comfortable with this level of college basketball and figures out what he can and can’t do, Rudd will become a smoother player. The flashes are there, though, and that’s what matters at this stage of the season.