Veterans Help Spark Defense

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Mustapha Farrakhan and the Hoos locked down on defense.

After Virginia’s defensive debacle at Wake Forest last Saturday, I walked into the John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday curious how – or if – the Hoos’ defense would respond against Clemson. After all, the Cavaliers haven’t been a picture of consistency on that end of the floor this season, something that isn’t too surprising considering the youth on the team, the injuries, and so forth. What happened against the Tigers, however, was a defensive gem.

The Cavaliers held Clemson to 33.3% shooting for the game, including a dismal 27.3% shooting in the first half. The Tigers made just 3 of 18 3-pointers, a meager 16.7% effort from downtown. Those numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Virginia ranks in the ACC’s bottom three teams in field goal percentage defense and 3-point field goal percentage defense, numbers that improved after the showing against Clemson.

The defense Wednesday fit the season themes. Entering the game, Virginia had allowed 48.0% shooting and 43.5% 3-point shooting in its 10 losses. In the 11 previous wins, UVa had allowed just 41.5% shooting.

Coach Tony Bennett pointed to the defense as the reason for the 49-47 win against the Tigers.

“We played a veteran team that I think is one of the better teams in our league. We have some limitations and that’s obvious, but the guys found a way to collectively come together and say, ‘alright, we’re going to do this together on the defensive end,'” Bennett said. “Sammy [Zeglinski] got us off to a great start. That was significant for us. The wheels were wobbling a little bit at the end. We’ve been there, but tonight we got enough stops, hit a layup, hit a pull-up, and did enough things well to beat a good team.”

Getting enough stops, of course, is what cost the Hoos a win at Wake Forest when they allowed points on 16 of the last 19 possessions.

“Defense was our staple all night and we were able to pull out the victory,” Zeglinski