”Without ball movement, you have no chance.”
St. Francis Brooklyn coach Glenn Braica knew that coming into Tuesday night’s game with Virginia. His team learned that lesson the hard way. Stuck on the perimeter with little crisp passing for much of night, the Terriers settled for the last resort against UVA’s suffocating brand of defense – highly contested jumpers. That resulted in a lopsided victory for the No. 8 Cavaliers, who cruised 72-32 in the season’s home opener.
”That’s something we have to learn and it would’ve helped to make a couple of shots,” Braica said. “But you’re not going to make shots against Virginia without ball movement. You have no chance. It’s going to be hard even with ball movement, [but] without ball movement you have no chance because the defense is stationary and you’re not going to score.”
The Hoos held St. Francis to 22.9% shooting for the game, which included a 16.7% number in the first half. That produced just 13 points by halftime, which in a sign of just how tough UVA’s defense can be, did not set a record. Georgia Tech managed just 12 in January 2015, while Harvard came up with just 8 points in December 2014.
The Terriers (0-2) ended up taking 26 of their 48 shots from outside the 3-point arc because they couldn’t unravel the Pack Line defense. The visitors made just 5 of 26 triples, a 19.2% success rate. In the first half, when ball movement truly sputtered the most, SFB attempted 16 of 24 shots from downtown. That included one stretch of 11 straight shot attempts.
At one point, St. Francis missed 17 straight field goal attempts and went scoreless for 14:29 of the game.
“I just think we want every possession to be a battle for the other team, and so far they have embraced that,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We try to give them nothing easy. There were a couple transition buckets where we were not alert. Early we got lift-faked a couple times and they got into the lane, but for the most part, even though they were spread out, they did not get into our paint and all of the outside shots were contested. A couple of those they hit and you take your hat off.”
While the Terriers struggled on offense, the Cavaliers found a groove with their own ball movement. The hosts made 59.6% of their shots, including a sizzling 73.8% of their 2-point attempts that offset an 0-10 shooting night from beyond the arc. Virginia logged 18 assists on 31 made shots.
The scoring turned out to be one of the most balanced box scores you’ll find. Austin Nichols, making his Virginia debut after sitting out the opener due to a suspension, led the way with 11 points. No other Hoo made it to double figures, but 11 other players scored and six had at least 5 points. Jarred Reuter added 9 points, while London Perrantes, Marial Shayok, and Mamadi Diakite all had 8 points each. Jack Salt scored 6 points, while Kyle Guy added 5.
The Cavaliers spent much of the second half getting high-low looks or drop-off passes near the basket. That led to 65.4% shooting after intermission with Nichols and Diakite doing a lot of the damage. Nichols recorded 9 points in 13 minutes of second-half action – he sat with 2 fouls for much of the opening half. Diakite added 6 points in 11 minutes in the second half. That duo joined Reuter’s productive night to help create a 46-8 scoring edge in the paint.
St. Francis simply had no answer for the interior play or the balanced attack of UVA.
“I think we are going to have to be more balanced,” Bennett said. “Certainly when some guys get hot, you work with them, but I think so. London was cold early, but he’s certainly capable of putting up big numbers. Marial can score. We will see with Austin on how it goes when it comes to scoring, but I think this is more of a balanced scoring team, and I like that. It is nice to have guys that when you need a bucket can go get one, but so far that is the way it has played out in our scrimmages. Spain is not really a great indicator, but it was pretty balanced that way.”