Cause for concern? UVA defense has been subpar of late

uva basketballThird-ranked UVA hangs its hat on the defensive end, which makes its two high-scoring wins this week stand out like a pair of sore thumbs.

Davidson scored 1.108 points per possession in Virginia’s 83-72 win on Tuesday, nearly three-tenths of a point higher than the Cavs’ season average (.812 points per possession). And then on Saturday, in an 89-80 double-overtime win, UVA allowed Miami to score 1.013 points per possession, including a staggering 1.387 points per possession in the second half.

Numbers are numbers, and can be made to say whatever you want them to say, but there’s no sugarcoating the fact that these numbers confirm what a lot of us saw with our eyes. Davidson got what it wanted on offense all night long, with guards Jack Gibbs (7-of-10 from the field, 4-of-6 from three), Tyler Kalinoski (7-of-13 from the field, 3-of-5 from three) and Brian Sullivan (5-of-11 from the field, 4-of-8 from three) getting into the lane and creating open looks for each other on the perimeter.

It took Miami a half to get untracked, but point guard Angel Rodriguez was the instigator in the second half and overtime on Saturday in Coral Gables, scoring 23 of his 25 points after the intermission with five assists, and dribble penetration that opened things up for the ‘Canes perimeter shooters, who were able to knock down six of their 12 three-point attempts in the second half and the OTs.

Rodriguez was such a thorn in Virginia’s side that coach Tony Bennett switched his best on-ball defender, Malcolm Brogdon, to him in the second half, to no avail, with Brogdon so bogged down by what he was doing on defense that he didn’t score in the second half, and fouled out with 2:23 to go in regulation.

The saving grace for Virginia this week was its underrated ability to score the ball. For the season, the Cavs score 1.186 points per possession, 10th in the nation, and this week outperformed its season averages in the Davidson win, scoring 1.277 points per possession, and was only slightly off on Saturday against Miami, scoring 1.127 points per possession.

There’s plenty of time to get things fixed before March and April, and it’s easy to see what it is that needs fixed. Davidson and Miami were able to get their guards into the lane, and if you can get your guards into the lane, you’re either going to get a good shot for the guard in the lane, a pass to a big cutting to the hoop free because his guy goes to help, or an open look for a three-point shooter if the help comes from the perimeter.

That’s basic basketball, and the basic way to stop it is to keep an opponent’s guards out of the lane. Easier seen and said than fixed and done.

– Column by Chris Graham

         
 

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