Cavs sharpen ‘D’ before Irish rematch
Huff says Virginia is going through ‘growing process’
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The work of tightening the normally nationallybest Virginia basketball defense kicked into a high gear after a 98-75 loss to Gonzaga last month. Saturday at Boston College, UVA looked a lot more like itself in a 61-49 win.
“This is true of most of the teams that I’ve been a part of, it’s been a growing process,” said senior forward Jay Huff, who blocked five shots against the Eagles. “There’s some times where we haven’t quite figured out how to play, just the defense that we play together yet, just because it’s a rotating cast of characters. But once we figure it out … we can really just get to what we know we can do and what has been done traditionally in this program.”
No. 18 Virginia hopes to do that Wednesday against Notre Dame.
A strong defensive showing in the second half of a win over Wake Forest on Jan. 6 set the stage for Saturday’s performance at BC. The Cavaliers now rank second in the ACC, allowing an extremely re
spectable 59.4 points per game, up from the 52.4 mark with which they led the nation last season.
“I think we’re touching on it, on what we can do defensively,” point guard Kihei Clark said. “We’re holding guys pretty good, I think [BC] had two lastsecond shots against the shot clock. But I think we’re doing a good job defensively and I think we can just ramp it up a little bit more and just get a little better.”
UVA (7-2, 3-0 ACC) has won five straight meetings with Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish and 16 of the past 17 games in the series overall
going into this afternoon matchup at John Paul Jones Arena.
“We’ve certainly had no answer for them,” Brey said.
Perhaps not, but Brey also indicated his team may have found at least portions of the formula to solve its UVA riddle when the teams met on Dec. 30 in South Bend. Ind.
Virginia outlasted the Irish 66-57 in its final game of 2020. In that game,
Clark had 19 points and five assists as Notre Dame (3-7, 0-4) struggled to keep him out of the lane.
On the other end of the floor, the Cavaliers enjoyed an encouraging bounce-back defensive effort after getting shredded by No. 1 Gonzaga.
To reverse the result, Brey said, Notre Dame needs to look inside first.
Brey said his team found a bit of a rhythm last time playing insideout, getting the ball on the low block to forward Juwan Durham in a position to score or pass.
“We figured out offensively in the second half how to play against them, playing through Juwan in the low post,” Brey said. “So that helped us. … I’d love to see us throw it into the post and get in a rhythm offensively.”
On defense, Brey said Notre Dame has to be more effective keeping Clark from penetrating. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound California native is averaging 15 points and 3.8 assists in the team’s past four outings, including the earlier win over the Irish.
“He really put a lot of pressure on them,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said. “Kihei’s quickness was good and he backed it up with good decisions.”