Inside the Numbers: How UVA defeated Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title

uva basketball national champsTexas Tech had dominated defensively in the NCAA Tournament, and they were, if you believed the experts, going to dominate UVA defensively Monday night in the NCAA championship game.

The Red Raiders led the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2018-2019, allowing .833 points per possession season-long, according to KenPom.com.

And they were the best team defensively in the tournament heading into Monday night, allowing .848 points per possession over a stretch that included wins over the likes of Michigan (KenPom offensive efficiency rank: 24), Gonzaga (KenPom offense rank: 1) and Michigan State (KenPom offense rank: 5).

That’s … amazing.

What Virginia was able to do to that Texas Tech defense Monday night: a night for the ages.

The ‘Hoos had 66 possessions against Texas Tech. And scored 85 points.

That works out to: 1.288 points per possession.

For perspective: Texas Tech allowed more than a point per possession eight times in its 37 games heading into Monday night, and the high-water mark was a modest 1.123 points per possession in a 73-62 loss to Baylor on Jan. 19.

More perspective: the output by Virginia actually outpaced its offensive efficiency for the season, which, at 1.234 points per possession, ranked second nationally, per KenPom.com.

So, yeah, that was out of the ordinary.

Texas Tech, to its everlasting credit, made Virginia’s offensive output necessary, with a solid night on its end.

The Red Raiders scored 1.132 points per possession on Virginia’s defense, which had ranked fifth nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency coming in, allowing .887 points per possession.

Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech’s star, never did get untracked, shooting just 5-of-22 from the floor, largely in one-on-one matchups with Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter, who like Culver is projected as a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

And Matt Mooney, who’d had 22 points in the Red Raiders’ win over Michigan State in the national semifinals, and 17 in the Elite Eight win over Gonzaga, was held in check, for the most part, by UVA freshman point guard Kihei Clark, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

But Brandone Francis stepped up big time, scoring 17 on 7-of-12 shooting, and Davide Moretti added 15 on 5-of-10 shooting, 3-of-6 from three.

And after an 8-of-24 shooting effort in the first half, Texas Tech played like the Golden State Warriors for 20 minutes, hitting big shot after big shot, shooting 15-of-28 in the second half (53.6 percent), answering every charge from the ‘Hoos with one of their own.

And, honestly, the game was Tech’s to win. Up three in the closing seconds, Virginia ran a set that it had used a good bit in the second half of the season, staggering Ty Jerome to the left side of the court to try to beat his man into the lane one-on-one, expecting help to come from the opposite side of the floor, and then, when it did, zipping the ball cross-court to the open shooter in the corner.

Almost always, that shooter in those situations was Kyle Guy, but with 14 seconds left in the national-championship game, it was a guy who had started the night missing his first seven shots.

Hunter didn’t make his first bucket from the field until the 1:30 mark of the first half, in which he shot 1-of-8 from the floor.

Hunter was the foil to the Texas Tech defensive scheme. For all that you do X’s and O’s-wise, when a guy is just hitting shots, there is no answer, and that’s the plane that Hunter was on after halftime.

Hunter hit eight of his last nine shots, four of them threes, including that three that sent the game to overtime, and then the bucket, from that same right corner, with 2:09 to go in the OT that put Virginia ahead to stay.

All of this, on a night when it wasn’t like Hunter was the only guy doing anything. Guy, named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, had 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting, 4-of-9 from three.

That Guy could end up being named MOP is astounding when you consider that he had started the tournament shooting 9-of-44 from the floor, going into the second half of the Elite Eight win over Purdue, after which he shot 51.3 percent from the floor (20-of-39) and hit the three biggest last-second free throws in Final Four history in the 63-62 win over Auburn in the national semis.

Jerome also came up huge in the title game, scoring 16 points and dishing out eight assists, with just one turnover in 42 minutes against the Texas Tech pressure.

For the tournament, Jerome averaged 16.5 points and 6.0 assists, with just 10 turnovers in the six games, in 236 minutes of floor time, which works out, quick math, to 39.3 minutes a game.

For the second time in the tournament, Virginia, wired to win with defense, beat a team with superior offense.

The ‘Hoos aren’t in the Final Four if they don’t figure out a way to outscore Carsen Edwards on a night in which he scored 42 and couldn’t miss from 30 feet in.

And they’re not national champs if they can’t beat this year’s best defensive team that happened to be shooting the lights out for 20 minutes.

This is your new-look Virginia team, and they have a big trophy to take back home with them to Charlottesville.

Column by Chris Graham

UVA Basketball Fans!

uva basketball team of destiny
Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25. The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe, and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018 through to the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.

Dick Vitale on Team of Destiny: “This is a hoops story you will LOVE! Jerry and Chris capture the sensational and dramatic championship journey by Tony Bennett and his tenacious Cavalier team. UVA was Awesome Baby and so is this book!”

Ralph Sampson on Team of Destiny: “Jerry and Chris have lived and seen it all, even before my time. I highly recommend this book to every basketball fan across the globe. This story translates to all who know defeat and how to overcome it!”

Buy here.




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