Offensive Offense Leads to Loss
Duke flipped the script on us. On a night where many expected Virginia would be able to score (after all, they almost always been) but that our leakier-than-usual defense would fall victim to rampaging Duke drivers and a hail of threes, we instead defended as well as we have in weeks and turned in a lethargic, discombobulated, straight-up bad performance on the other end of the court.
Seriously, we defended pretty well. I’m not kidding. The numbers (1.19 points per Duke possession, 45% from the floor, 47% from three) and freshness of the pain don’t reflect it, but the rough spots were almost entirely the work of one Jayson Tatum, who scored 21 second half points (en route to 28 for the game) and canned six of seven threes. They weren’t open threes, either; these were shots where a player with a special combination of ability and athleticism decided to rise up and rain fire on us. It’s a story we’ve heard before.
Isaiah did a credible job on Tatum (and contested nicely more than a few times), but he’s not laterally mobile enough to be right there when a player like this is handling the ball on the perimeter. It’s OK: he’s not a wing, even if he’s the size of one. I’d put Wilkins on Tatum again (and I’d dare him to shoot instead of drive again if I had to pick one, he had 15 made threes coming in), but that choice definitely did not work out for us last night
Marial Shayok and Devon Hall did a fine job checking the other two key Dukies. Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard combining for 21 points on five of 19 shooting (with seven of Kennard’s coming when we were haplessly fouling late). Blue Devils that aren’t mortal locks to be picked in the lottery of the 2017 NBA Draft (so everyone but Tatum) combined to shoot 37.9% from the floor and make three of 13 threes and were defended well. We even brought the post doubles back at times against the husk of Amile Jefferson and freshman Harry Giles, and did solid work on the defensive glass after a rough start.
To say that we defended everyone but Tatum well may be the equivalent of Mary Todd Lincoln telling Ford’s Theatre staff that the performance was wonderful aside from being so rudely interrupted, but it’s true. It was clear that we defended well by the amount of whining about pace of play and freedom of movement that I saw on Twitter from opposing fans of various allegiances.
Unfortunately, the reality of college basketball is that you can’t just stop the players that belong in college, you need to stop the future pros too, which is something that we’ve had a hard time doing over the last 11 months:
Malachi Richardson: 23 points, 21 in the second half.
Dwayne Bacon: 29 points, 26 in the second half.
Jamel Artis: 24 points, 6–7 3PT
Andrew White and Tyus Battle: 46 points, 6–14 3PT
Jayson Tatum: 28 points, 21 in the second half
I don’t think it’s a secret that we need to become more explosive and dynamic on the wing, and players like those listed above make it hard to forget. That kind of superlatively athletic wing will continue to bother us for the schools higher than we are on the food chain until we either bring in more elite athleticism or the NBA starts allowing 18 year olds back into the league.
The defensive performance (even with Tatum’s explosion) would have been enough to win if the offense had provided it with any support at all. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Duke defended us expertly. Krzyzewski deployed a nifty little three quarter court press that wasn’t designed to force turnovers so much as it was to provide a distraction and (ironically) make us take even more time to get into the offense, and it worked — it felt as though every Virginia possession really started to go with 14 seconds or less on the clock, and we (unthinkable, really) committed two shot clock violations in the first half.
When we did get into the blocker/mover, it was broken. The blockers were all over the place — Amile Jefferson and Tatum bodied them out toward the sideline at points, and we set some screens at places that did not make sense tactically— and it felt like the guards and bigs were stuck in an infinite loop of awkward searches for each other, like middle schoolers at a dance having to run through water. Virginia’s best sources of offense in this game were London Perrantes (14 points) and Ty Jerome (13) free-lancing for contested looks, something that at least got us double digit scorers, not something I want to rely upon for an entire game.
At least there was this one pristine moment of joy:
I thought this was a valid point. It didn’t appear that we ran many designed plays other than a couple of sets that produced three point tries for London. It wouldn’t hurt to perhaps have some things other than blocker/mover in our back pocket for situations when the blocker/mover isn’t rocking and rolling. Our guys are so indoctrinated into the scheme (and before you @ me, I’m aware that this scheme has produced a very efficient offense and factored into a lot of wins; my children are named Blocker and Mover) that it sometimes seems like they struggle to adapt to situations that call for a different approach.
When we had opportunities, we didn’t capitalize:
The biggest pluses for me individually were Mamadi Diakite and Ty Jerome. Plus/minus isn’t awesome, but Diakite was the only Virginia player in the positive for the night, logging six boards and three blocks in 17 minutes. I wish he’d taken more than one shot. Jerome continues to show an uncanny ability to just get buckets when he’s on the floor, overcoming being bullied into an early turnover to score 13.
The game had a weird mood from the beginning. Perhaps it was the lack of big, exciting offensive plays, but the crowd — packed in and ready at the start — never got the chance to get way into this one.
A meeting with North Carolina in Chapel Hill couldn’t come at a worse (or better if you like tinges of desperation in your weekend basketball) time.