Flip A Coin
The Hoos won their ninth game in as many tries, 57 - 49, over in-state rival VCU. The game could charitably be described as a rock fight. And really, that should have come as no surprise. As StLouHoo offered in his preview, the Rams were an excellent defensive squad (14th nationally in adjusted defense per KenPom and 6th in raw defensive efficiency heading into the game). And the UVA program is built on the back of its defensive reputation.
But was the game a masterpiece of defensive college basketball orchestrated by two maestros? Or was it an offensive abomination and harbinger of unpleasant things to come for the home team? Judging by the postgame reactions, there were many in each camp. You may as well flip a coin to arrive at your answer.
There's no denying the impact that UVA's defense had on the game. The Rams, not a stellar offensive team by any stretch, shot only 29.5% from the field (18-61). From three, they were even colder, shooting a frigid 20.7% (6-29). VCU also committed more turnovers (8) than they had assists (7).
And if one were to put the video of this game in a time capsule (just go with it), anyone that could recall the game twenty-five years from now when the capsule was opened would almost certainly remember this game solely for the Mong00se's defense.
The highlight, of course, was Clark's single-handed effort to force a ten second call against VCU's PJ Byrd. With the outcome still in doubt, the Mong00se prevented Byrd from crossing half court as the ten second count expired. The turnover secured momentum for the Hoos who had just tied the game at 43 via a Ty Jerome three with 5:40 remaining. The Hoos would outscore VCU 14 to 6 from that point until the end of the game.
Equally as important, and impressive, however, was Clark's defense against VCU's leading scorer Marcus Evans. Evans finished his forgettable afternoon with 3 points (1-6 from three, 1-10 overall), 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, and 4 fouls.
On the flip side of the coin was the UVA offense. Like VCU, the Hoos' struggled to score, especially from the field. UVA finished the game also shooting 29.5% from the field (13-44). The Hoos also shot 27.8% from three (5-18). VCU deserves a ton of credit for those results. They executed their plan well and challenged the Hoos for all 40 minutes.
As frustrating as the raw numbers were, it was the approach the Hoos took on offense much of the game that caused the real consternation. Faced with a long, aggressive defense, UVA spent much of the game in traditional Blocker-Mover sets. Building off their experience against the Hoos last year, the Rams were well prepared for what UVA ran on offense. Using their length to frustrate, the Rams also played UVA's screens aggressively, often over playing them to take away open jumpers often found after a screen or denying easy passes to the mover in UVA's offense.
This is a well known counter to the UVA offense and is often employed with some success by FSU and Duke when their McDonald's All Americans are willing to play defense.
Adding to the frustration, Dre Hunter only managed six attempts from the field. He spent a great deal of the game with his back to the offensive action setting screens for movers that could not shake their VCU defender. While they each hit big shots, both Guy and Jerome finished 4-13 from the field.
After falling behind to FSU in Tallahassee by 11 points late in the first half last year, the Hoos largely went to a spread the floor and drive offense. Taking advantage of the Seminoles' aggressive play on defense UVA came all the way back to win 59-55.
Against VCU, the Hoos sprinkled in just enough of this action to overcome their jump shooting woes. While it did not manifest itself in a ton of made baskets, it did allow UVA to attempt 30 free throws where they made 26. That was the most free throw attempts for a UVA men's basketball team since the Hoos also attempted 30 against both Louisville and Villanova during the 2015-2016 season. That team featured both Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon who could each get to the free throw line at will.
If you're looking for something positive on the offensive side of the court to hang your hat on, that's your singular focus.
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