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Get this: Sam Hauser, the ‘diference maker’ on defense for Virginia

sam hauser uva pitt
Sam Hauser had a game-high 23 points for UVA. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

You’d not have dreamed ever saying it, thinking it, even a month ago, but, Sam Hauser was the difference on defense in Virginia’s 73-66 win over Pitt on Saturday.

Justin Champagnie, the ACC’s leading scorer and rebounder, had 18 points and 10 rebounds, right around his season averages.

But he needed 18 shots to get those 18 points – and needed 12 shots to get 10 points in the second half, shooting just 4-of-12 from the floor, often finding himself reduced to shooting contested fadeaways after trying, and failing, to power Hauser in the post.

Breaking down Champagnie’s numbers: he was 7-of-12 at the rim, which for a guy who was a 71.4 percent finisher at the rim coming in, translates to a couple of extra misses.

Then he was 1-of-6 on jumpers. Season: 38.4 percent.

He had two points off four offensive rebounds.

Coming in: his 41 offensive boards had produced 31 scoring opportunities, and he’d converted 71.4 percent of those, per Synergy Sports.

Hauser’s defense alone was worth the seven-point margin.

Factor in that Hauser, fighting in the trenches with the ACC’s best post player, also had a game-high 23 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-4 from three, and, well.

“I thought Sam was really good. He actually guarded well, and offensively when you look at his stat line, I mean, that’s 8-of-9, 3-of-4, did the job. He was the difference maker for us,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said.

Hauser, you knew, coming into the 2020-2021 season, was going to be able to put the ball in the hole.

The question, asked more and more as Virginia limped to a 4-2 start, was, could be defend?

The answer early on was, no.

“I’ve worked hard at it,” Hauser said after the Pitt win. “Obviously, there’s still some improvement to be had, but I think I played pretty solid in the end and made (Champagnie) work for his shots. He’s a great player. Hats off to him. He still had a really good game with a double-double, so I just tried to make it as difficult as I could for him.”

You knew that Bennett would go to the post-to-post double to try to get Champagnie to spin the ball out, and he did early on.

“We did that in the first half on him, and they hit a three, and then we got a turnover, and we decided just to see how it goes,” Bennett said. “I can’t remember which coach that made the suggestion, but it was to maybe hold, and let’s see how Sam guards him. I thought he was really good at being, on we call it, a ‘wall on wheels.’

“Yes, that part I was really pleased with. There were a couple stretches, but that was the difference on the defense, and one of the bright spots defensively.”

Story by Chris Graham

augusta free press
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