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Inside the Numbers: Are the critics right about #4 UVA?

UVA basketballOK, gritty win for #4 UVA, and you’re not supposed to look a gift horse in the mouth, and yet, here I am, saying, that horse could be prettier.

You have to admire the resolve to come out of that MMA fight with a win, but you can hear the Colin Cowherds and the various ESPN and CBS Sports columnists without having to listen.

UVA can win these games in the regular season, but in March, this is how you beat them.

VCU, credit due, the Rams are good, damn good, on defense. They’re eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency in the KenPom.com data, and you can see why.

Virginia, as the numbers go, 11th nationally in offensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, could never really get going.

Even in the closing stretch, a 19-6 run in the final 6:30 that turned a five-point deficit into the 57-49 win, the ‘Hoos only managed three made shots from the field.

Virginia won despite making exactly five shots from the field in the entire second half.

This against a team that, God love ‘em, but the Rams are 86th in KenPom.com’s power ranking.

And yes, they won at Texas earlier this week, but, OK, the Longhorns own a win over North Carolina, but also possess a loss at home to Radford, so, you know.

What VCU was able to do to disrupt UVA’s Mover-Blocker is definitely blueprint material for the likes of Mike Krizilonski and Ol’ Roy, among others.

It’s what, gulp, UMBC did this past March. The Mover-Blocker is predicated on screens; the way to attack it is to fight through the screens, and honestly, to grab and clutch and grab some more, as much as the zebras allow.

Virginia did take advantage of VCU’s grabbing and clutching and additional grabbing in going 26-of-30 at the line, but the strategy still worked enough for the Rams, in terms of uglying things up when the whistles weren’t put into use.

UVA was just 13-of-44 from the field for the game, and had 12 turnovers on its 56 possessions.

That rate is what you’re used to seeing the Virginia defense do in strangling opponents. That’s 21.4 percent of your possessions without getting a shot at the hoop, on a day when you’re shooting 29.5 percent when you do get a shot at the hoop.

Again, great for UVA that it was able to get the win anyway, says a lot about how tough the ‘Hoos can be on the defensive end, and the rest.

But: you just have to be worried.

De’Andre Hunter was a glaring non-factor: nine points, 1-of-6 shooting, in 35 minutes.

The two guys who were able to put the ball in the hoop, Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome, were each 4-of-13 from the floor.

I tweeted the 7:37 media timeout, when UVA was down 41-38, to the effect that I wanted to see somebody step up and take control of the game the way Malcolm Brogdon used to, and that I expected it to be Hunter doing that.

It wasn’t Hunter, but, credit to Jerome, who had a layup, a pair of threes and two free throws in the final 6:30.

I guess I should be happy there, that somebody was there to answer the call, and again, credit to Jerome.

You don’t need everybody to be at the top of their game every night to be able to win games. The defense was solid, holding VCU to 29.5 percent shooting, and UVA outrebounded the Rams, 38-34, and had slight advantages in points off turnovers (10-9) and fast-break points (6-4).

The horse isn’t as ugly as I’d originally thought, after breaking things down to the core.

But still, could be prettier.

Column by Chris Graham