Defensive Shift Plays Key Role In Win

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Tony Bennett gets some late game assistance from Ritchie McKay.

After a game of up-and-down play and an evaporated double-digit lead, the Virginia basketball team was staring a two-point deficit in the face with 2:32 remaining Monday night against UNC-Wilmington. And to make matters worse, Coach Tony Bennett’s trademark defense was struggling to stop the Seahawks. That’s when a subtle shift essentially saved the day for the Hoos.

Jerome Meyinsse had just corralled an offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback attempt. He made both free throws to cut the score to 62-64 with 2:32 remaining. Coach Bennett called a timeout to organize his team for the stretch run. That’s when Ritchie McKay, the Cavaliers’ associate head coach, suggested a substitution that would allow the Hoos to go small in the final moments.

The team has done that at times throughout the season, moving Sylven Landesberg to the power forward position and, typically, Mike Scott to the center position. This time, however, the coaches elected to move Landesberg to the power forward slot and kept Meyinsse in at the center spot so that he could continue to maintain post defense on Wilmington’s John Fields.

The substitution became Mustapha Farrakhan for Scott, leaving Landesberg, Meyinsse, Jontel Evans and Sammy Zeglinski on the floor with Farrakhan. This realigned some match-ups for the Hoos and allowed them to deal with the Seahawks’ Chad Tomko, Ahmad Grant and Johnny Wolf at the guard slots.

“Coach McKay is the one who whispered that in my ear. He said, ‘Maybe we can get one of our bigs out and switch the ball screen one through four.’ We were having a little trouble with one of their other screens and we haven’t worked on switching it and we kept running into it. That’s also why I decided to get Jontel off of Tomko because his experience started showing