Inside the Numbers: That was a ‘just win, baby’ win

uva basketball bear creekBurn the mpegs of that one. Nobody needs to watch Virginia’s 53-49 win over Oregon in the Sweet Sixteen ever again.

The only thing you’d learn if you did – and, again, don’t, it was ugly enough the first time – is that these ‘Hoos have some grit.

All season long, we’ve talked about how this UVA team was different from its predecessors because it has an elite offense to match its top-of-the-charts defense.

And, somehow, some way, even after that dog of a game, that saw the Cavaliers jack up 33 threes, and only make nine of them, three of those from Kihei Clark, a 32.9 percent shooter from three coming in, the ‘Hoos are ranked third in offensive efficiency per

Which, great. They were nowhere near third in the nation in offense Thursday night. The aforementioned jacking of threes – 33 of UVA’s 56 shots were from behind the arc – was part of the problem.

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Oregon’s length – the Ducks are the 10th tallest team in the country, per KenPom – was a key there.

We’d seen this play out before, and not that long ago: in Virginia’s 69-59 loss to Florida State in the ACC Tournament semifinals two weeks ago.

The bigger, more physical – at least that night – Seminoles kept the ‘Hoos out of the lane, and led all night.

Maybe we had to play that game to be able to win this one.

On that night, 24 of Virginia’s 53 shots were threes, and only seven of those went down, 20.8 percent.

Last night, this morning, whatever – the game ended after midnight, thanks to the overtime win by three seed Purdue over two seed Tennessee earlier in the night – the 9-of-33 effort came out to 27.3 percent.

Virginia at least shot 17-of-29 on two-point shots in the Florida State loss; Thursday night, Oregon held the ‘Hoos to 11-of-23 shooting on twos.

This is a roundabout way of me saying, this one wasn’t won on the offensive end by the nation’s third-best offensive team.

It was won on defense, with UVA limiting an Oregon team that had been scoring 1.31 points per possession in the NCAA Tournament to 0.94 points per possession on Thursday night.

Oregon shot an even 50 percent from the floor in its wins over Wisconsin and Cal-Irvine; Thursday, Virginia held the Ducks to 37.8 percent.

Oregon had shot a combined 20-of-40 – again, an even 50 percent – from three in its two NCAA wins. Virginia held the Ducks to 36 percent shooting from long-range, 9-of-25.

That was an Oregon team that had won 10 straight coming in. You had to assume Virginia would need to play its A game, at least a B+ game, to beat the deceptively seeded #12 Ducks, unquestionably the hottest team of the 16 left with the start of play Thursday night.

The offense had a D game, and that might be charitable.

How’s this for a fun stat: not one Virginia player shot 50 percent or better from the field, not even somebody going 1-for-2.

The defense had its A+ game, fortunately.

That’s why we’re still writing about Virginia basketball.

Column by Chris Graham

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