UVA Basketball: ‘Hoos know they will face ball pressure from Auburn

uva basketball bear creekThe game from this season that scares you as a UVA Basketball fan looking forward to the Final Four and Auburn is the first N.C. State game.

You remember that one. Ty Jerome hurt his back, the ‘Hoos turned the ball over 16 times, and Virginia, honestly, escaped with a one-point overtime win that felt like something else.

The reason: State’s on-ball pressure.

I think it’s been getting a bit overstated that it was the Wolfpack’s full-court press. Yes, there was plenty of full-court pressure, but State used its full-court to take UVA out of its offensive rhythm, which was just a part of what was effective that night.

The ball pressure and the jumping of passing lanes were a lot more important than the full-court stuff.

Jerome, talking with reporters Friday at the Final Four, noted that Virginia played N.C. State a second time, in the ACC Tournament, a 76-56 UVA win, but, OK, you remember that one, too.

State led that one by four at the half, before Jack Salt, of all people, ignited the ‘Hoos early in the second half.

“Auburn is definitely similar to them in a way,” Jerome said. “They’ll pressure you. They’re probably a little more talented offensively, a few more shooters. So they’ll present a more difficult challenge in that way. But it will be a dogfight.”

The good news for Virginia fans is that Jerome is 100 percent healthy.

The Auburn side, not so much, with coach Bruce Pearl telling reporters today that it’s a good thing the game is Saturday, not Thursday or Friday.

Guards Jared Harper and Bryce Brown are both under the weather.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are sniffling and hacking and coughing, but we don’t play today,” Pearl said. “Jared would be – he would be less than 100 percent if we had to play today. If we played yesterday, Bryce would have been less than 100 percent. He’ll be fine tomorrow.”

“Just a little bit under the weather,” Harper told reporters today. “I’m a little sick, but it’s not going to stop me from continuing to prepare for this game. This is a big moment for us as a team and us as a program. So, I know I’m going to be ready.”

Auburn’s game is predicated on its cardio. The Tigers’ relentless ball pressure forces turnovers on 24.9 percent of opponents’ possessions, the best in the NCAA, and the turnovers cut two-fold: limiting the chances opponents get to score the ball, and also setting up Auburn for transition opportunities on the offensive end.

Virginia, on its side, is one of the best in the nation at taking care of the ball, with a turnover rate of just 14.7 percent, 12th best nationally.

The ‘Hoos played a much cleaner game against N.C. State in the ACC Tournament, turning the ball over just nine times on 62 possessions, a 14.5 percent rate, so, better than average.

State, for the record, ranks 28th nationally in opponent turnover percentage, at 21.6 percent.

“I think we had like 15 or 16 turnovers the first time we played NC State and then significantly less the second time we played them. Unfortunately, we won’t have two chances at Auburn, so we’re just going to have to be disciplined in what we know how to do,” Kyle Guy said today, hitting the nail on the head.

Every Game is Game 7 in the NCAA Tournament. Somebody ought to trademark that.

You don’t get a chance to feel things out and correct them later in a series like NBA teams do in a playoff situation.

“Taking care of the ball will be a huge key,” Jerome said. “It’s the same thing we try to do every game, making them take a tough shot and win the majority of the possessions.

“We’re not going to compromise on how we play, but at the same time, our style of play is just to win,” Guy said. “So, we can score with the best in the country, and we can defend with the best in the country. So, whatever it takes to win is what’s most important.”

Story by Chris Graham


Augusta Free Press coverage of the 2019 postseason is presented by Bear Creek. Serving Waynesboro, Charlottesville, Harrisonburg and surrounding communities, Bear Creek provides a hassle-free process to help homeowners create outdoor living spaces that bring people together. Schedule a consultation at BearCreek.co.
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, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
 
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