Scott German: UVA dominance built on defense

uva-logo-new2The Tony Bennett era at Virginia is in its sixth season. From his introductory press conference in April 2009, the emphasis,of UVA basketball has been the striving for defensive perfection. On Sunday afternoon in a sold-out John Paul Jones Arena, his team came up at tad short of perfection, but in the process completely plummeting a 7-1 Harvard University team 76-27.

The victory sent the media searching for the record books to discover a more thorough defensive shellacking by a NCAA Division I team.

During the two-hour beatdown witnessed by a national TV audience, the following highs (or lows, depending upon your rooting interest) occurred.

  • Virginia limited a solid Harvard team to just one field goal in the first half. One field goal that resulted in a first half shooting percentage of 5.1% by the Crimson. That defensive performance by the Cavaliers (or offensive ineptitude by HU, again depending upon your perspective) tied an NCAA record set by Kansas State in 2006.
  • The 27 points were the fewest scored by Harvard in a game since 1944. The Harvard starters were a combined 1-for-32 from the floor.
  • The Cavaliers held Harvard to 16% shooting from the floor-an all time low by a UVA opponent.

Harvard entered the pre-season a nationally ranked team (No. 25) and Sunday’s win has to gain the attention of media that cast vote for the top-25. A bump behind only Kentucky and Duke may be forthcoming.

A common theme for Virginia this season, now 11-0, was to come on quick, deal a lethal blow to its opponent, and work on the fundamentals the remainder of the contest. Ditto for today as the 12-noon tipoff did nothing to deter the Cavaliers from their go-for-the-jugular mentality.

Center Mike Tobey was the games offensive star as, the 7-foot center scored Virginia’s first nine points and finished with 15. The Cavaliers bolted out to first half leads of 16-3, 30-4 and led 39-8 at intermission.

The final was the second-fewest points allowed by UVA in the shot-clock era (the Cavs allowed 26 in a win over Rutgers in the Barclays Center Classic in November), and only until coach Bennett utilized every possible player did Harvard come remotely close to a “flurry” of points, scoring six in the game’s closing minutes.

After the game a humble Bennett said he had unfortunately been on the other side of that kind of outcome as well. “I’ve been in that spot, and honestly a few too many times,” said Bennett. “I just challenged our players to play hard, and certainly have respect for how hard Harvard played,” added the UVA coach.

I have not had the time to review any of Bennett’s games while at Washington State, but I think he may have been just a bit too humble when he said he had often been on the other side of a beat down similar to this afternoons. A head coach in any sport couldn’t survive many of what was witnessed today.


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.

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