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Three Key Takeaways.
- Virginia got back to being Virginia. In the first half of Friday night’s contest with Coastal Carolina, the Cavaliers were not themselves, falling behind by 10 and trailing by five at the half while allowing the Chanticleers to shoot 52 percent. They tightened things up in the second half of that game and carried that familiar stingy defensive play into tonight’s round of 32 match-up with Memphis. In the first half tonight, Memphis managed only 20 points in 32 possessions and shot a dismal 26.7 percent. For the game, the Tigers were held to 40.7 percent shooting and managed just 0.91 points per possession, their third worst offensive performance of the season. In addition, the Cavaliers’ offense was sharp and balanced as usual. Virginia had five players score in double figures and they shot well in all areas – total field goals (56%), three-pointers (45%) and free throws (81%).
- Memphis could not speed up Virginia enough. Coming into the game there was a stark difference in each team’s preferred pace of play. Virginia ranks among the slowest teams in the country, while Memphis would rather play an up-tempo style. Whichever team could control the pace was going to be more comfortable and have the best shot at winning. In Friday’s win over George Washington, Memphis had 15 fast break points and did alright in that area again tonight with 18. But for the most part, Memphis was handcuffed here by the shooting disparity. It’s hard to set up a full-court press if your opponent rarely needs to inbound the ball after a made basket. And it’s also difficult to get out on the fast break when you’re constantly taking the ball out of the net on the other end.
- The battle of the boards went to Virginia. This was a big key to the game coming into Sunday, and it turned out to be critical. In a strength-versus-strength match, Memphis entered as one of the nation’s best teams (#29) in offensive rebounding percentage. The Tigers were up against a Virginia group that ranked seventh nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. This battle was decided during the pivotal first half, with Memphis shooting so poorly that there were 22 caroms available on that end of the floor. The Cavaliers stepped up and grabbed 19 of those to take away what the Tigers’ do best. For the game, Virginia allowed the Tigers to grab only 19 percent of their misses, and the Cavaliers ended with a sold +12 edge in total rebounds.
Star of the Game. Joe Harris, Virginia. The senior Harris led the balanced attack with 16 points, including nine in the first half when Virginia broke the game open.