Inside the Numbers: Virginia flips the script, wins with offense

uva basketball bear creekCarson Edwards, frustrated by De’Andre Hunter’s length early in the second half, decided, you know, he won’t defend me from 30 feet.

Edwards was sublime, scoring 42 points on 14-of-25 shooting, 10-of-19 from three.

He made Hunter, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, look like an insurance agent playing noon ball at the YMCA.

And Kihei Clark, Virginia’s other stopper, averaging 35.3 minutes a game in the NCAA Tournament heading into the Purdue game Saturday night, got just 24, including the overtime.

Tony Bennett threw the kitchen sink at Edwards, a 23.8-points-per-game scorer coming in, and when that didn’t work, he literally ripped up his play card, after Edwards banked a three to put Purdue up 69-67 with 1:10 left.

“Just ripped it in half,” said the normally unflappable Bennett.

So, naturally, I’m writing this column as a sort of season wrap for UVA Basketball, undone yet again in March, when the Pack-Line defense that works so well from November to the end of the ACC Tournament suddenly gets exposed.

Here it happened again. All the stuff about hard hedges and rotations and help goes by the wayside when it matters.

You got me. Purdue beat Virginia at its own game.

The Boilermakers scored 75 points on 59 possessions, which tells you, the game was played at Virginia’s snail’s pace.

That’s 1.271 points per possession, against a team that was giving up .881 points per possession coming in.

Purdue, mostly Edwards, but still, eviscerated Virginia.

Which eviscerated Purdue back, and a little more efficiently.

I’ve been writing and saying all season that what separate this UVA team from its predecessors is its ability to put the ball in the basket.

Coming into Saturday night, the ‘Hoos were third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per

Last year’s group, for comparison, the one that finished 31-3, went 20-1 in the ACC, was 21st in offensive efficiency heading into the NCAA Tournament.

Which, good, but, not elite.

Ty Jerome gets into the lane better, which opens things up for Kyle Guy on the perimeter, for Hunter on dribble-drives, for Mamadi Diakite in the post.

Which has given this Virginia team a dimension its predecessors didn’t have.

Past Virginia teams needed to stifle you on the defensive end, and if they didn’t, well, Michigan State, twice, Syracuse, in the Elite Eight, come to mind.

Virginia basketball needed to stop you to beat you.

Saturday night, the ‘Hoos weren’t getting many stops. Purdue scored on 53.5 percent of its possessions, and was 14-of-32 from three.

Which, wow.

How do you beat a team, how do you beat a guy, Edwards, doing that?

You score on 59.3 percent of your possessions, for starters.

You outrebound the bigger team 39-31, pull down 17 offensive boards, leading to 18 second-chance points, including the most important two second-chance points in Virginia hoops history, the buzzer-beating jumper from Diakite that sent the game to overtime.

You go 8-of-9 on shots at the rim, doubling Purdue’s output at the rim.

And in the end, you score 80 on your 59 possessions, 1.356 points per possession.

This Virginia team can win a 53-49 slugfest with an elite defensive team in Oregon, and then can put up 80 to basically just outscore an elite offensive team in Purdue, and a guy in Edwards having a career night, basically on back-to-back nights.

Column by Chris Graham

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