Inside the Numbers: Syracuse punches the Pack-Line in the teeth

uva basketballThe Pack-Line defense used by UVA coach Tony Bennett is designed to stop dribble penetration. So when you see Syracuse beat it, again, with dribble penetration, it makes you do a double-take.

The Orange went at it in the conventional way in the first half Saturday, and predictably things didn’t go well, as a 9-for-23 shooting effort resulted in a 34-22 halftime deficit.

You remember the last time these two played, of course. UVA led Syracuse 35-21 at halftime of their Elite Eight matchup that had pretty much gone the same way: the Cavs dictating the tempo and shot selection by a passive Syracuse team that stubbornly kept running its sets.

You remember that one turning around because Syracuse went to a full-court press in the final 10 minutes, but maybe the bigger key was the relentless attacking from the perimeter with dribble drives that got shots in the lane and open looks from three.

Jim Boeheim didn’t wait until the final 10 minutes to start attacking this time around. An early 8-0 run in the opening 2:38 set the tone. After an early shot-clock-beating three by Tyus Battle, it was attack, attack, attack.

The stats bear out the success: the Orange was 5-of-6 at the rim in the second half, 4-of-6 on jumpers, and 5-of-7 on threes.

It’s oversimplifying to a degree to say it, but it’s how basketball works: you get the ball into the lane, you get better shots in the paint, and you get better looks at three against a defense that is usually out of position.

What that translated to on Saturday was a 44-point second half that had Syracuse shooting 73.7 percent from the floor and scoring 1.457 points per possession.

Column by Chris Graham

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