Virginia Overwhelms Monmouth At John Paul Jones Arena

Virginia Cavaliers Ryan Dunn
Ryan Dunn eyes the basket for Virginia. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/

Monmouth basketball coach King Rice found a perfect way to sum up his team’s night courtesy of a text from his son: this is what it feels like when Virginia Virginias you.

Indeed, the visitors ran into a vintage version of UVA on Friday night at the John Paul Jones Arena. The Hoos overwhelmed the Hawks 89-42 for their largest margin of victory since 2018-2019 and the dismantling came from both ends of the floor. Defensively, Virginia allowed just 39.0% shooting and held Monmouth scoreless for the last 4:33 of the first half. On offense, nine players scored at least 7 points as the team dished out 23 assists and shot 55.6% from the floor.

When that variation of Virginia is clicking under Tony Bennett, it’s hard for an opponent to match.

“Wow, Virginia is really, really good,” Rice said. “I’m friends with a lot of guys on the staff. Tony Bennett years ago, helped me with our defense and pack line. He’s always been really, really good to me. He’s just such a good coach. I try to explain to my kids that they’re a team. They’re not going to do un-team like things. Every single player is going to be coached well and they’re going to do what they’re supposed to do every time, so if you try to short cut it, things will get ugly.”

That’s exactly what happened at the JPJ.

After approximately 10 minutes of back and forth basketball, UVA turned a 2-point lead into a 14-point lead with a 12-0 burst over 3:27 midway through the first half. And that was before the Hoos shut down Monmouth late in the half. That stingy stretch helped create a 9-0 run before intermission when Virginia doubled the total to lead 42-21.

That final 10:27 of action featured plenty of highlight worth passing. True freshman Ryan Dunn scored his first career basket when Kihei Clark spotted him open for a 3-pointer. Clark tossed an alley-oop to Kadin Shedrick for a slam and zipped a diagonal pass to Ben Vander Plas for a 3-pointer too. Clark added his own 3 during the half-closing surge courtesy of a Reece Beekman assist.

Those plays all provide glimpses at the kind of night it was offensively for the Wahoos. They accumulated 23 assists on 30 made baskets thanks to good ball movement and court vision from the players. Clark, Beekman, and Vander Plas repeatedly set the table for their teammates with sharp on-target passing. Several of those plays in the first half featured a baseline drive followed by a kickout to the opposite side for 3-pointers.

Clark finished with 8 points, 7 assists, and 0 turnovers, while Beekman posted 7 points, 6 assists, and 1 turnover. Dating back to last season, Beekman has 5 or more assists in eight straight games. Vander Plas got in on the playmaking action with 10 points, 3 assists, and 0 turnovers. When the team is sharing the ball that efficiently, it helps multiple players get going in the scoring column especially when they’re getting clean looks at the basket. Virginia knocked down 13 of 25 3-pointers in the game.

That’s been on display plenty of times in the first two games. UVA has 39 assists on 50 baskets so far this season.

“I think the pieces that we’ve added have certainly helped us. No question,” Bennett said. “Again, Monmouth was worn out. They played Seton Hall, and they actually are a scrappy team, and we weren’t sharp early, and they took advantage of it. Then they wore out and I think we started flying around and playing hard defensively and caused some turnovers and points. Yeah, you love that when guys make that extra pass.”

Virginia Cavaliers Isaac McKneely
Isaac McKneely knocked down 4 of 6 triples for UVA. ~ Photo By Kris Wright/

The added pieces certainly had a big outing Friday night. In addition to Vander Plas’ line, a pair of freshmen were the only other players in double figures as Isaac McKneely and Dunn recorded 15 and 13 points respectively. McKneely led all scorers with 15 points on 4-6 shooting from 3-point range. Dunn added 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocked shots. Both showed poise offensively to create open looks for themselves, but they also kept the ball moving at the right times too. With no turnovers between them, it was a really good performance for the first week of their careers as Cavaliers.

Dunn really impressed in his debut, enough so to draw a De’Andre Hunter comparison from Coach Rice at Monmouth and some fans alike.

“He trusts us as freshmen, which is a big thing,” Dunn said. “He gives us a lot in practice, just being able to tell us what to do and what to do to be able to get on the floor. We try to do it the best we can in practice. So, I think Isaac [McKneely] too, just thanks to him for believing in us. I think now, looking forward, we’ve got to figure out what we’ve got to do this year to stay on the floor as freshmen because it’s a tough road, but I think we are capable of it.”

While the ball was moving on offense, the Cavaliers made it difficult for Monmouth to produce at a similar level thanks to a better defensive effort compared to the season opener. The Hawks connected on just 3 of 11 3-point attempts and committed two shot clock violations. The Wahoos ended up with 8 blocked shots and 9 steals. That included 2 blocked shots from Beekman to tie a career high.

Other than Myles Foster, no one could really get comfortable for the visitors. He made 5 of 7 shots on the way to 10 points, but the rest of the team combined for 9-34 shooting. Rice said that UVA’s size and physical play simply wore the Hawks down and they didn’t have an answer for it.

“I thought we were good for about 10-11 minutes. Then unfortunately we needed to sub, and my subs are young,” Rice said. “They turned up the heat and we turned it over about six or seven times in a row. We did the same thing against Seton Hall, and they made us pay. But the cool thing is my guys got to play at Virginia. I’ve been here before as a coach, and I’m not used to losing like this. But we’ll be back and better. Just hats off to Virginia on a great game.”

Final Stats

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  1. Coach Rice seems like a classy guy. I hope Monmouth does well and will be rooting for them in the future–just NOT against UVA.

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