Fighting Off Raiders
The Hoos took their first step up the ladder of level of competition against Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas. Although the final margin of victory was 22 points, this game was no sunset stroll on the beach. Virginia came out looking like a well-oiled machine as it rolled to a 30-9 lead, but the Blue Raiders were unwilling to go without a fight. They would respond with a 16-4 run of their own with a 1-3-1 trap that disrupted the Cavaliers' passing lanes and forced several turnovers. After Virginia pushed the lead back up to 13 at the end of the first half, Middle Tennessee charged out of the locker room with the first five points of the second half to draw within 8.
The specter of UMBC ascended from the Bahamas balloom floor as if conjured by a voodoo master as the Kenpom #163-ranked Blue Raiders fought for a victory they believed they could grab. They seemed to have the better athletes, playing faster and stronger than the ACC squad and getting to the rim at will while taking apart the Virginia offense the way the 184th-ranked dogs from Baltimore County had just eight months ago.
Kyle Guy was having none of it. A three-pointer off a feed by De'Andre Hunter and a pair of free throw following a steal bookended a 9-0 run in less than two minutes by the Hoos to blast the lead back up to 17 and for all intents and purposes end the battle. Middle Tennessee did not quit, but they would get no closer than 11 points again, and were down by 24 when Tony Bennett called off the pursuit with 2:30 remaining.
- Guy hit the first five points of the game to stake UVA to the 5-0 lead, then had the 5 points in the rebel-squashing second half sequence, and outside of those few minutes was 1-7 from the arc, 2-11 overall, with 4 turnovers in 30 minutes.
- Kyle's co-leading scorer Dre Hunter was far more efficient in getting to 15 points, taking 5 fewer shots. Dre also had 4 turnovers, but countered that with 9 assists, 8 rebounds, AND was the Glue Hoo of the Game with a 12 Glue Index. Dre was the clear player of the game as he had the most impact both with and without the ball.
- The third member of the Big Three had a surprisingly small impact on the game, as Ty Jerome took only 5 shots, dished just 3 assists and registered only two points on the SPID (Successful Possessions Index-Defense) scale. He turned it over twice, as the Big Three accounted for 10 of UVA's shockingly high 13 turnovers on the game.
- Middle Tennessee scored a couple important buckets on offensive rebounds, giving the impression they were successful there, but the box score shows just 6 second-chance points on as many offensive rebounds, a sub-20 OR%. UVA, by contrast, boarded 12 out of 30 misses for over 30%, which is considerably above the norm for the Hoos.
- The high number of turnovers reflected issues with the 1-3-1 zone more than anything else. Virginia has struggled with that zone down the years, giving the feeling that they practice beating it less than the 2-3, which makes sense.
- Braxton Key had an outstanding game as Dre's wingman, with 13 points on a highly efficient 8 shots. Impressively for him were the 2-3 from three and 5-5 from the free throw line. He was also second leading rebounder with 7 boards and had a 2:1 S:TO ratio. Overall, his 22 SPI was second behind Dre's 28.
- Middle Tennessee was good preparation for Dayton, giving the Hoos a step up in talent level from the first three opponents and playing with a lot of belief. They gave Virginia some game pressure to have to contend with for the first time. As we shall see, that would be important on the next day.
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Articles on This Game
- The First Skirmish by , posted on November 22, 2018, in Team. Has tags (n) Middle Tennessee (B4A) (November 21, 2018)
- Hoos Invade Paradise by , posted on November 21, 2018, in Team. Has tags (n) Middle Tennessee (B4A) (November 21, 2018)
- Video Breakdown: The Wall of Salt by , posted on November 16, 2018, in Team. Has tags Ty Jerome, Kihei Clark, , , (n) Middle Tennessee (B4A) (November 21, 2018), Coppin State (November 16, 2018), George Washington (November 11, 2018)