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Well-rested No. 22 Virginia and Northeastern face off

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Twice in a span of four days early this month, Isaac McKneely of No. 22 Virginia scored a career-high 22 points.

Not only that, in the wins over Syracuse and North Carolina Central, the sophomore guard used the same formula, hitting 8 of 11 shots from the floor and 6 of 8 from 3-point range.

After 10 days off, the Cavaliers (8-1) hope McKneely still has the rhythm as they host Northeastern (4-6) on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

McKneely’s long-distance accuracy has opened up the Virginia offense. The Cavaliers, long known for their clock-milking possessions, are even running when the opportunity presents. In their 77-47 win over North Carolina Central, they had 22 fast-break points.

“Some guys we talk about have a green light if it’s a rhythm, push, transition 3,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “Some guys have a yellow light, and some guys have a bright red light — and that means don’t shoot it.”

McKneely is the former as he is hitting 58.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc to rank second in the nation, trailing only Reed Sheppard (59 percent) of Kentucky.

“I think he’s looking for it. There’s a little more assertiveness. He’s hunting the shot,” said Bennett, who played at Green Bay from 1989 to 1992 and remains the all-time NCAA career 3-point accuracy leader at 49.7 percent.

Another player emerging for the Cavaliers as they have won four straight is Leon Bond III.

The freshman is listed as a 6-foot-5 guard, but he operates effectively close to the basket — as evidenced by his numbers against North Carolina Central (14 points, nine rebounds and two blocks).

“He’s crafty around the lane. He’s got a real nice fallaway pull-up,” Bennett said. “He has a knack for finding an offensive rebound, making a play. And he can get you different kinds of baskets.”

Northeastern arrives after a nine-day break following a 73-71 loss at home to Vermont. The Huskies were up by nine points with less than 10 minutes left before the Catamounts went on a 20-6 run.

Northeastern lost despite a 46-18 advantage on points in the paint, a significant accomplishment considering seven of the Huskies’ top eight scorers are guards.

Leading the inside presence for Northeastern is 6-foot-7 Chris Doherty, who scored 21 points against Vermont and leads the Huskies in points (11.9), rebounds (7.0) and assists (2.6) per game.

Other top scorers for balanced Northeastern are Luka Sakota (11.7 ppg), Masai Troutman (10.3 ppg), Joe Pridgen (10.3 ppg) and Jared Turner (9.8 ppg).

Going 0-3 in games decided by five or fewer points indicates that Northeastern is probably a bit better than its record shows.

The Huskies of the Coastal Athletic Conference have had a rugged schedule, with just three games at home and only three against teams that currently have losing records.

“We try to put together a schedule that’s going to help us learn about ourselves and play against the very best competition and coaching staff so we can find out where our weaknesses lie,” said Bill Coen, who is in his 18th season and has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament twice.

–Field Level Media

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