Zone Defense Makes Rare Appearance

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Tony Bennett used a zone defense briefly in Atlanta.

You’re more likely to spot a UFO or stumble upon Bigfoot than you are to see a Tony Bennett team play zone defense. Yet when his Virginia men’s basketball team needed something else to help pull out a 62-56 at Georgia Tech on Wednesday, there it was: a 2-3 zone. Don’t blame UVa fans for rubbing their eyes and doing a double take, though. After all, it was the first time the Hoos used a zone this season.

Bennett said he made the defensive flip to change the game’s rhythm and help deal with Iman Shumpert, who had started getting shots from off-ball screens. Mustapha Farrakhan spent most of the night defending Shumpert and the zone allowed him to catch a breather from that assignment as well.

Bennett initially made the switch coming out of a timeout at 8:43 with 15 seconds on the shot clock for the Yellow Jackets. Shumpert fired a pass off of Lance Storrs ‘ foot as the hosts committed a turnover on the possession.

“They were running Shumpert along the baseline and it looked like Mu was getting further and further away from him as the game was wearing on and I thought just maybe, maybe, if they are keying on him, and get them maybe to stand and we can just pass him off on that baseline runner stuff, it might be effective,” Bennett said. “There were 14 or 15 seconds left on the shot clock, I thought we will just see. They are going to draw up a man-to-man play, we haven’t played any zone all year and so we did it. You know what, it was okay, and I think I did it probably six or seven possessions and then pulled it on and off. I think it was effective for us because they certainly missed some shots, but they stood. We worked on it just enough to be okay, nothing great, but I thought it was enough of a change of pace.”

The Hoos played man-to-man defense on the next possession and Farrakhan