Virginia Basketball Double Bonus: Viva Las Vegas

The Virginia basketball team picked up two big wins in Las Vegas last weekend, taking down then No. 5 Baylor and then No. 19 Illinois in games on Friday and Sunday. The victories delivered the Continental Main Event title to the Hoos and sent them soaring all the way to No. 5 in the newly released polls.

With two top 5 wins on the resume already for Tony Bennett’s team, Hoo fans are even more excited about the season than when it started. It’s a great time to start the Double Bonus series. Let’s look at something spotted in both games from UVA: halftime adjustments.

Virginia Added More Flare For Baylor

On Friday night in Vegas, the Hoos trailed the Bears 33-30 at the break. They proceeded to come out of the locker room on a 30-5 outburst. That run was fueled in part by 3-point shooting as UVA hit 8 of 10 downtown shots to open the second half.

The really interesting part there is that the Hoos had attempted just 2 3-pointers in the first half, but then took 12 long-range shots in the second half. Bennett mentioned after the game that “we saw something that we thought we could maybe get some advantages on and once we did that, the game opened up.” So what was that something? I think it was flare screens and passes to the opposite side of the floor.

Virginia did not run much traditional ‘sides’ motion in the first half with players coming off baseline pin downs and then the passer running off flare screens away from the ball. In the second half, however, the Hoos turned back the clock and added that flare concept to its approach. It paid dividends quickly and once that surge started, Baylor had a hard time stopping it for around 10 minutes.

Here are two early examples in the second half. In the first clip, Kihei Clark catches the flare pass and drives to the baseline. That forced a help rotation and the kickout pass to Armaan Franklin resulted in a corner 3-pointer that tied the score at 33-33. On the second, the same action in the opposite direction freed Clark for a 3 of his own. That one gave the Hoos the lead and they never trailed again.

UVA Adjusted Approach To Switches For Illinois

Against the Illini on Saturday, Virginia trailed once again at the half. This time, the score stood at 31-29 in Illinois’ favor.

In this matchup, the Hoos faced a team switching every screen both on the ball and off the ball. That created some challenges at times, one example being the flagrant foul Kadin Shedrick picked up while trying to post up a guard. Even in that case, the Cavaliers wanted to try to exploit the switch on the baseline screening action within their motion concepts.

In the first half, they started a lot of possessions that sent guards cutting in opposite directions before the first pass was made. That frequently featured what’s sometimes called an Iverson cut (it’s named for Allen Iverson) where a player runs over the top of two staggered screens near the elbows, while the other player delays but then runs around the baseline screen on the opposite side. The idea here often is to make a defender chase the player over the screens on that Iverson concept and then let that player create out of it. In Virginia’s case, the thought is to clear a path for that baseline cutter off a screen.

The catch with the way Illinois was playing defense by switching all screens is that it basically led to a guard remaining on the guard catching the first pass. Why? When a UVA player cut over the first screen in the Iverson action, the Illini switched that guard on to the first post screener. Then when the second cutter ran across the baseline off the same screener, that guard switched out to the cutter. In effect, that reduced the mismatch possibilities and created less of a challenge for the defenders to communicate their decisions.

Here is one trip in the first half that still worked out for Virginia because Kihei Clark beat the new defender off the dribble, drew help, and then pitched out to Isaac McKneely for a triple.

At the start of the second half, UVA changed how it entered the ball to that baseline cutter. Instead of placing both posts at the elbows and running an Iverson cutter around them with the point guard making the first pass, the Cavaliers lifted one post up and delivered the first pass there. Then they sent the baseline