Cracking Zone’s Code Led To Win

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Tony Bennett’s team made 60.7% of its shots after halftime vs. the Tribe.

For the first half of its season-opening contest Friday, the Virginia men’s basketball team struggled against William and Mary’s preferred match-up zone. The Cavaliers couldn’t consistently find the seams in the defense, missed some open shots and committed 6 turnovers in trying to force the action.

At times, open players hesitated to pull the trigger on open shots. At times, the Hoos tried to force the ball into the paint to Mike Scott despite the Tribe’s packed-in defenders. Even when the Cavs found some operating room early, they couldn’t convert – Scott and KT Harrell each missed shots from the paint, for example, and Joe Harris couldn’t knock down an open 3-pointer at the top of the key.

The result? UVa led just 28-27 at halftime after shooting 39.3% in the opening frame. That included a 5-of-13 outing from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. Virginia tried different tactics in an effort to jumpstart those numbers, including high on-ball screens set against the top players in the W&M zone. Other than a trio of 3-pointers midway through the half from Billy Baron and Harrell, things just didn’t click before halftime.

“It’s hard playing against a zone like that because they were sagging off a lot and baiting you to shoot it so it was kind of hard at first,” senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan said. “But with Billy [Baron] opening it up and Mike being strong down there in the paint, [it] just opened it up for everybody.”

Indeed, an improved approach after intermission helped crack the code of the match-up zone and Virginia eventually cruised to the 76-52 win. In the second half, UVa made 60.7% of its shots and 7 of 10 3-pointers; the hosts also attempted 9 more free throws and committed just 2 turnovers. So what did the Hoos do to get better shots and better results after intermission?