Game Plan: What UVA needs to do to beat Boston College

uva basketballThe four-guard lineup that Tony Bennett used in the 65-39 demolition of Virginia Tech on Saturday would seem to work well in Virginia’s next ACC game at Boston College.

Assuming the Eagles will have to go at it without 6’11” senior Nik Popovic, who has been out since Dec. 3 with a back injury, BC coach Jim Christian will have to go small Tuesday night in Chestnut Hill.

Christian has been going with 6’8” junior Steffon Mitchell (6.7 ppg, 8.7 rebs/g) at the five at least 33 minutes per game since Popovic went down.

The bulk of the minutes at the four in this stretch has gone to 6’8” sophomore Jairus Hamilton (9.1 ppg, 37.5% FG, 29.7% 3FG), a four-star recruit whose offers included Duke, UNC and Kansas, but hasn’t played up to that potential yet at Boston College.

You can see Bennett going with 6’8” senior Braxton Key (10.3 ppg, 7.3 rebs/g, 52.6% FG, 26.9% 3FG) at the four and 6’9” senior Mamadi Diakite (13.2 ppg, 6.8 rebs/g, 45.7% FG, 40.7% 3FG) at the five to match up.

The wild card matchup-wise is 6’7” freshman C.J. Felder (5.9 ppg in 19.7 mins/g), who at 230 pounds could be a bit of a load for the trio of Cavaliers getting minutes at the two and three – 6’7”, 200-pound sophomore Kody Stattmann (5.3 ppg, 32.7% FG, 20.7% 3FG), 6’5”, 196-pound junior Tomas Woldetensae (4.3 ppg, 31.0% FG, 30.8% 3FG) and 6’3”, 195-pound freshman Casey Morsell (5.4 ppg, 25.5% FG, 15.5% 3FG).

Morsell, despite being the smallest of the three, on paper, might be the best matchup on defense for Felder.

Kihei Clark, at 5’9”, gives up inches to everybody he plays, and will do so matching up with BC point guard Derryck Thornton (13.3 ppg, 3.4 assists/g, 3.5 turnovers/g, 39.1% FG,  25.0% 3FG), but you don’t worry about Clark giving up inches to anybody defensively.

What you worry about is you’re BC, and you have to figure out how to check Clark (9.8 ppg, 5.9 assists/g, 37.4% FG, 37.8% 3FG), who is averaging 12.8 points and 8.0 assists per game over his last four, and was in the paint almost at will in Virginia’s 65-39 win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, in which he scored a career-high 18 and had six assists.

The offense seemed to have better flow with Clark helming an offense with a four-guard lineup on the floor, running great screen-roll action with Diakite and Key, taking great advantage of the extra space in the lane with one less big in the lineup.

That would mean, out of necessity, almost, less minutes for 7’1” junior Jay Huff (8.6 ppg, 6.1 rebs/g, 60.0% FG, 30.0% 3FG), who got just 12 minutes off the bench (with two points, three rebounds and two assists) in the win over Virginia Tech, after going scoreless in his previous ACC game, the 56-47 win over UNC on Dec. 8 (14 minutes, 0-of-4 FG, five boards).

Story by Chris Graham

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