The Virginia Cavaliers used a late run to beat Virginia Commonwealth 74-57 in front of a boisterous crowd at the Siegel Center in Richmond. The Hoos took the lead for good early in the first half, controlling the game by taking advantage of VCU's aggression to rain down high-percentage shots. With the impressive road victory, UVA heads into the exam break at 9-0, while VCU drops to 5-3.
Virginia didn't start strong against VCU's Havoc defense, turning the ball over 5 times in a period of three and a half minutes in one stretch. But after the under-12 timeout, the Hoos looked like a different team. They lost the ball just 3 more times during the rest of the half, and picked apart the Ram defense with alley-oops, dunks, lay-ups, and, when VCU tried to adjust, three-pointers. Opposing fans love to ridicule the Hoos for playing a boring style of basketball. They need to watch this game.
UVA led by 10 points at halftime after this awesome diving Evan Nolte steal:
The second half started off with more of the same for the Hoos. UVA's lead stayed in the range of 10 points until Treveon Graham hit 3 consecutive wide-open corner three-pointers to cut the lead to 59-55 with seven minutes to play. Tony Bennett called a timeout, and his words caused a #CAVALANCHE, as Virginia scored the next 15 points - the team allowed only two free-throws with the game already safely in hand.
Beating VCU's Havoc defense involves two components: Avoiding turnovers, and making the Rams pay for their aggression. Virginia didn't manage to accomplish the first, losing the ball on 27.4% of its possessions (which is an even higher rate than VCU's average this season). However, that was outweighed by its shooting success. UVA made 55% of its 3s and 73% of its 2s, for an eFG% of 76%. That's how you turn the ball over a ton and still manage 1.27 points per possession.
Those shooting percentages aren't solely a result of making jump shots (though the team did that too). Virginia got the ball to the rim repeatedly and converted easy, open lay-ups and dunks, as this ESPN shooting chart shows:
Virginia shot 68.3% vs VCU, its second-best in school history, in 74-57 victory pic.twitter.com/sN626Of4Pm— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 6, 2014
Defensively, the Hoos did what the Packline defense loves to do: Force tough, contested, jumpers. The Rams made just 7 of the 24 (!) three-pointers they attempted; besides Graham's 3 shot burst, most were closely guarded. VCU finished with .93 PPP. The Hoos also rebounded 77% of VCU's misses, especially strong against an offense that crashes the boards.
Justin Anderson was a game-time decision to play after tweaking his ankle against Maryland; but if he was still bothered, he didn't show it. Anderson scored his 21 points on 6 for 7 shooting, including 3 of 4 from behind the arc, and pulled in 8 rebounds. He's a human highlight reel every night, filled with clutch threes and loud dunks, and was the best player on the court. (He's also shooting 59% on threes this year. With 34 attempts, this is getting ridiculous.) Anthony Gill added 18 points on 7-9 shooting, and Malcolm Brogdon was 6-9 for 15 points. (Yeah, all these shooting percentages are absurd).
London Perrantes, who turned the ball over 3 times but had 9 assists, provided the steadying influence that the Hoos badly could have used in last year's loss. And Devon Hall, who has been buried in the rotation, provided a nice lift in his 14 minutes, showing the ability to beat the press and even throwing down a dunk of his own.
Evan Nolte also saw significant playing time with Darion Atkins on the bench, showing an eye for the ball (see the Vine above) and hitting a big late three-pointer during UVA's 15-0 run. Mike Tobey (who did finish with 8 points and a game-high 4 offensive rebounds) struggled with VCU's speed, and Nolte provided some good minutes alongside Gill.
Going 2-0 on the road at Maryland and VCU is an impressive feat; Virginia controlled both games despite hostile atmospheres. The team now has a well-timed 12-day layoff to get healthy, then finishes its non-conference with home games against Cleveland State, Harvard, and Davidson.