'Hoos hope Key can heat up down stretch

BLACKSBURG, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Braxton Key hopes to help the Virginia men's basketball team offensively down the stretch this regular season, like he did down the stretch of Monday's win at Virginia Tech.

Key knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the final six minutes to help ice the Cavaliers' 64-58 win at Cassell Coliseum. They were the only two shots the junior forward made in six attempts on Monday, and his first 3-pointers in four games.

"I'm just really happy for him," UVA junior Ty Jerome said following the Wahoos' victory. "He's been struggling with his shot, and he still contributes defensively, so much. On the boards, so much. So to see those two go down at the end of the game, and we needed them, and he needed them for his confidence. I was so happy for him, and it was big-time for us."

A transfer from Alabama following last season, Key opened ACC play with a season-high 20-point performance in the Cavaliers' 65-52 win at John Paul Jones Arena in early January. Key shot 7-of-11 from the floor in that game, including 2-of-5 from beyond the 3-point line.

But including his six-point performance against the Hokies, Key has averaged just 5.8 points in the 12 games since the FSU win. Entering Mondays game, he had made just one 3-pointer in UVA's previous eight games. He had missed his previous nine 3-point attempts -- including his first two in Blacksburg -- before hitting with 5:56 to play on Monday to put the Cavaliers up by 13. His second 3-pointer, with 57 seconds to play, extended the UVA lead back to 10 points.

"I knew it would come," Key said afterward. "I mean, everyone is capable in this system, in this offense. I had 20 one game against Florida State. So just sticking with it and trusting the process."

"I've been working on it every single day. Shooting 100, 200 3's a day," Key added. "It just feels good to see two finally go down."

Key is averaging 6.6 points for the season for the Wahoos. He's also UVA's leading rebounder, averaging 5.9 per game, second on the team with 27 steals and third with 15 blocks. Tony Bennett praised Key following Monday's win for his movement without the ball offensively, as well as his passing.

But the Cavaliers also realize that if Key can heat up heading into March, they'll be that much tougher to beat.

"He can really spread the floor if he can get a consistent outside jumper going in a game. And he's a fearless rebounder, probably the best on the team," UVA guard Kyle Guy said. "He's been working really hard and trying to find his way into the rotation, and find his rhythm within the team, so really proud of him for sticking with it."