Virginia’s Polished Play Picks Apart the Eagles

For University of Virginia men’s basketball, slow and steady wins the race.

The Cavaliers like to play slow—it has been a defining feature of head coach Tony Bennett’s teams ever since he took over for Dave Leitao in 2009. Though many modern basketball teams are opting for more dynamic, fast-paced, aggressive styles of play, Bennett’s squad has no problem slowing the game down and using the entire shot clock to find the best possible look at the basket.

Since they play at such a slow pace, the Cavaliers average the fewest possessions per 40 minutes in the nation, according to KenPom.com. But what Virginia lacks in speed, it makes up for in efficiency. Its offensive and defensive efficiency numbers each rank in the top-15 nationally, and the team keeps turnovers to a minimum.

On Wednesday night against Boston College, Virginia’s slow, steady, and clinical style of play helped the team cruise to an easy win.

The Cavaliers (14-3, 4-2 Atlantic Coast) methodically picked apart the Eagles (9-10, 2-4) on both ends of the floor en route to a 71-54 victory. It was a full team effort—no Virginia player scored more than 13 points, and no player saw more than 25 minutes of time on the floor. Virginia’s star, senior guard London Perrantes, only played 20 minutes and scored six points on nine shots. But it didn’t matter much on the scoreboard.

Bennett was impressed by his team’s defensive improvement from its last matchup with Clemson, but he also said it helped that BC had a rough night shooting. The Eagles shot just 38.5 percent from the field, while Virginia connected on 51.9 percent of its chances from the floor.

“I wouldn’t get crazy saying we were great defensively—they were off shooting,” Bennett said. “They missed a lot of shots.”

The slow tempo that Virginia set right from the first tip prevented the Eagles from getting in an offensive rhythm. BC’s shots weren’t falling, but the Cavaliers prevented BC from getting out into transition for easy buckets on the run. The Eagles only scored two points on fast-break chances, and didn’t exactly have many opportunities throughout the game.

BC’s two primary scoring options, guards Jerome Robinson and Ky Bowman, were both limited to single-digit point totals. Robinson was held to nine points on 4-of-14 shooting, while Bowman had just seven points.

“If you took any team in the country and their two best players are having a tough offensive night, you’re gonna have a tough time scoring,” head coach Jim Christian said. “That’s gonna happen with us, and that’s gonna happen with the other 350 Division-I teams.”

After rattling off seven consecutive games of more than 20 points, Robinson has struggled to find the basket in the past two games, both of which were losses to conference opponents. Christian said after the game that Robinson was fighting an injury suffered mid-game—he got hit in the jaw in the first half, and was complaining of vision problems on the bench—but he wouldn’t make any excuses for his star player.

Jordan Chatman picked up the slack offensively for Eagles, contributing 16 points to lead the team. It was a season-high for the sophomore transfer from Brigham Young, who also set a season high with 33 minutes played.

“I thought tonight was the best game that Jordan has played since he got here,” Christian said. “He was aggressive, he was confident, he shot the ball well, and played hard on defense.”

Virginia maintained its status as one of the most responsible ball-handling teams in the country, as it only surrendered five turnovers the entire game. BC couldn’t even capitalize on the very few chances it got—the Eagles scored zero points off of Virginia turnovers. The Cavaliers assisted on 22 of their 27 field goals in the game, dissecting the BC defense with simple, precise passing.

Perhaps Virginia’s slow tempo lulled the Eagles to sleep with a late start time on a weeknight, but Christian wasn’t impressed with the energy level that BC brought to the contest. At the beginning of the second half, BC players emerged from the tunnel almost sullenly. Non-starters headed straight to the bench, rather than joining the rest of the team on the floor to warm up. In game action, players looked lethargic or even disinterested at times.

Christian didn’t think his team was ready to play a team of Virginia’s caliber, and it clearly showed on the scoreboard.

“We didn’t come out to play Virginia—a ranked team—with the energy and emotion that you need to play with,” Christian said. “We’ve got to fix that.”

Featured Image by Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Staff

About Tom DeVoto 87 Articles
Tom is the Editor-In-Chief of The Heights Newsletter. He is also the A1 Editor of The Heights. You can follow him on Twitter @TLDeVoto.