Virginia 1.311PPP (Season Average 1.009PPP)
Purdue 1.229PPP (Season Average .974PPP)
Purdue is a very tough and well-coached opponent that I believe had a good enough team to win it all. Their offense was their strength, and it ran through an elite scorer in Carsen Edwards, and the rest of the team was role players that complimented him well. They are a set-oriented team, more than a motion or flow team offensively, and almost all their sets are to get Edwards or Cline open for a shot. Surprisingly for what Virginia is known for this game was actually a battle of two teams playing great offense, and not necessarily bad defense, but they were both making tough shots on each other. Both teams had well over their season average in Points Per Possession. This was a very dramatic game, and one of the most exciting of the tournament. Virginia ran their blocker-mover the whole game, and I like how Purdue top-locked the down screens, which doesn’t allow Virginia to come off them. Virginia had a good counter to this, and would have the guy that was supposed to come off the down screen run off the screen on the other side of the court.
This should be Cline’s help on the roll even though he is guarding an elite shooter in Guy. If Cline is there on the catch Virginia will have a 3 on 2 advantage weakside, and this is where Purdue has to get into scramble mode. Eastern has to play in between Guy and Jerome and if Diakite kicks out to one of them he would take the first pass out, and then Purdue’s defense would keep scrambling to the open man. This isn’t perfect, but it is the most efficient way to make up for the offense creating an advantage. Communication is the key to the scramble on defense.
With Hunter being defended this way he can open a wide open driving lane for Guy by sealing his man. A lot of people know this as a clearout. If he did this Guy would have driven baseline and Cline (guarding Guy) would have run right into his own man.
This is the same possession, and this is the shot they get. Guy made this and that is the great part about having elite shot makers, you can still score without having a good offensive possession. Throughout the game, there was a ridiculous amount of tough shots made that there is nothing the defense could have done differently. Virginia scored 10 points this way, 8 by Guy, and 2 by Jerome. Purdue scored 17 this way, 14 by Edwards, and 3 by Cline.
Clark can’t give Edwards a top foot in between Edwards two feet like this. Anytime anybody shows you a top foot that isn’t outside of both your feet pushing you a certain direction it is an easy read. If you rip through over the top the defender has to open up and you can go right by him. This is an easy read for a player of Edwards caliber, and he goes by Clark, then gets fouled on the shot and converts the free throws.
The next play down Edwards has Guy on him and passes, I do not like this. I’m typically not a fan of Isolation offense and prefer a lot of ball and player movement, but with the way Edwards played all tournament I would clear out for him any chance you get without Clark or Hunter guarding him. To put it simply Kyle Guy can’t guard Carsen Edwards. Instead, they end up posting Jack Salt (a great post defender) and turn the ball over. At the 9:40 mark, Virginia is down 22-12, and Guy and Jerome have already both made a very tough shot already. It was looking like it was true that Virginia’s slow pace would haunt them and that they would never make a final four playing this way.
I would like to see Eastern trail Hunter and make him wrap the screen. He does a good job of recovering and forcing a contested mid-range jumper, but it could have been better. I would force Hunter to wrap the screen because the screener (Salt) is a non-shooter so Haarms who is guarding Salt can play back and defend the wrap so there is no way that pass can be open. The first half was a battle and ended with Purdue up 30-29.
In the Second half, Bennett decides to start big with Salt instead of Clark. He likely wanted Hunter who has much more length guarding Edwards. This Also makes Edwards have to work more defensively because he has to guard Guy or Jerome instead of Clark, which could tire him out for the offense. I Also like this lineup offensively, Hunter was held back all year by being the 4 in their system. He was either setting ball screens in the continuity, or off-ball screens in blocker-mover which doesn’t take full advantage of his skill set, as a much better scorer than Clark. The weakness of this though is salt is screening instead of Hunter, and you can help off him because he can’t shoot.
This was simply a horrible possession defensively from Cline and Edwards and results in a wide open made three by Guy. Cline can’t help here especially when Jerome is driving right into Salt where Haarms can easily help. Even if Salt wasn’t in the way right there Cline shouldn’t help one pass away off of a shooter like Guy. The original breakdown came from a lazy closeout from Edwards. Jerome always catches the ball really casually to make the defense think he’s not attacking, then he attacks once they relax. Edwards has to know this on the scouting report and never relax when guarding Jerome especially, even though you should never be relaxed when you’re guarding anyone. Because he stands up and relaxes Jerome goes right by him.
I love how Eastern posts-up the smaller Jerome as he is cutting through, this is the best time to post because it is unpredictable. I wouldn’t consider Jerome guarding Eastern a huge mismatch but Eastern does have a little size and strength advantage over him. If more teams attack the post in this less predictable way this could make switching defense go extinct. If they ran a play for Eastern to post that was obvious and took time to get it to him he would never have this easy of a look. The more unpredictable you are, the harder you are to guard.
Diakite gets blocked in the post here, but this is Salt’s fault. This is why basketball is trending towards bigs that can shoot. If Salt could shoot he would be spotting up behind the three-point line and Haarms wouldn’t be able to help like this. By not being able to shoot you make every player on your team worse.
Hunter needs to trust his feet more and get up on Edwards. This is bad defense on any good shooter, but especially considering Hunter has teammates that are great at help defense, and Edwards is on one of the hottest shooting streaks in NCAA tournament history.
Carsen Edwards is the biggest microwave in college basketball, and your team can always go on a huge run. He hits 4 jumpers in 5 possessions to cut a 45-37 lead to 53-50. He was single-handedly taking over like few players can. After this run, Tony subs Clark in to guard Edwards because Hunter is not slowing him down at all. When Clark comes in he does a much better job.
Jerome drills this deep three to put Virginia up 4. No surprise Jerome makes huge gutsy play in big moments like he did all year. He is the guy you want on your side in a war.
Clark takes a quick break and Edwards scores 5 straight points right away, and Bennett is forced to put Clark back in.
This is just an insane shot, Clark couldn’t have defended this better. I want to call it lucky because it banked in, but the way Edwards is going it is hard to say it’s lucky. The following Purdue possession Virginia is down 69-67 and needs a stop to save this season, and Tony Bennett calls for a double team to get the ball out of Edwards’s hand. I think this is a great decision especially after he just made one. The double team worked and Edwards attempts an awful shot, but it hurt them for the offensive rebound which Purdue gets, and then Ryan Cline is fouled with 16 seconds left. Even though they let up the rebound I still think the double team was the right decision, especially considering Edwards had 40 points at the time. If Cline makes both free throws, it almost ices the game but instead, he goes 1-2 which gives them a 70-67 lead. Purdue makes a great decision up 3 that every team should do, and they foul with 6 seconds left. This way there is no way that you can give up a 3 unless you foul at awful timing. Jerome makes the first free throw, then misses the second. If Purdue secures the rebound they are up 70-68 with the ball and five seconds left. Instead, they don’t box out Diakite who kicks the ball out to Clark who finds Diakite for this shot at the buzzer to put the game into overtime.
You could for sure call it a lucky shot, but Virginia deserves to get rewarded for their hustle and effort. If Purdue secured that rebound they would have a bid to the Final Four, instead, they go to overtime with Virginia having momentum.
Salt does a great job of helping on Edwards the first two possessions, even though they end up getting scored on by one of them. They want to make someone besides Edwards beat them. The next play down after getting scored on Jerome scores with one second left on the shot clock after splitting a Pick and Roll. No surprise he makes a huge play down the stretch and this ties the game at 72-72.
Great positioning by Diakite to play in between two guys, this could have saved the season, and if he wasn’t in good possession between two, and committed too much to Eastern it would have been an easy dunk for Haarms. Later in the possession, Eastern gets fouled after an Offensive Rebound then makes 1-2 to give Purdue a 73-72 lead. The next possession Hunter is doubting his 3 ball too much but gets to the line and makes 2/2 to give them a 74-73 lead with 1:43 left. The next possession for Purdue Edwards takes a tough contested long two and misses. The next possession for Virginia Hunter is doubting his 3 again he passes on a wide open three, then drives and turns it over.
The next possession Edwards gets in the lane and makes a tough floater to give Purdue a 75-74 lead with 43 seconds left. He gives the ball up earlier in the possession and I would have liked to see Clark fight harder to deny him from getting it back. I love the play call from Bennett on the next play he calls an elbow Iso for Deandre Hunter, who has a mismatch with Grady Eifert guarding him. Hunter bullies his way to the basket and makes a layup with 27 seconds left to take the 76-75 lead. I love the detail Virginia ran the play with.
Look at where everybody is standing when Hunter catches the ball, this makes it not obvious what they were getting in too. If it was obvious they were getting into an elbow Iso Eifert could have forced Hunter left into all the help, but it wasn’t and this small detail could have completely changed the result of Virginia’s season. It is a very cliche saying, but this is why every detail matters. Purdue is down 1 with 27 seconds left and they run a Pick and Roll for Edwards. The original Pick and Roll gets nowhere, and Edwards ends up getting the ball back for an Iso where he gets a decent look for him that misses. Guy secures the rebound and makes 2/2 free throws to put Virginia up 3 with 5 seconds left. Purdue calls a play for Cline to come off a screen for a 3 with Edwards dribbling the ball up the floor. Edwards throws the pass too far to the left and it goes out of bounds. This basically ends the game. Purdue should have never lost this game with Edwards playing like that, but Virginia simply seemed to want it just slightly more. The Offensive Rebound score was 17-8 so Virginia gets 9 extra shots on the basket to make up for all of Edwards heroics. Also, Virginia’s bench looks way more into the game than Purdue’s. I may be overreading it, and they might just show more emotion, but from the outside, it appears that those kids cared more whether their teammates that were playing their asses off won. Another Close win for Virginia and it was because of their toughness and culture. Despite saying Virginia wanted it more, I’m not saying Purdue didn’t play hard because that couldn’t be further from the truth, and I’m sure they wanted it very bad also, but the hustle stats favor Virginia too much for me to not believe that Virginia wanted it slightly more.
A-TO Ratio: 14-5
Offensive Rebounds: 17
3FG: 14-32 (Edwards 10-19)
A-TO Ratio: 9-9
Offensive Rebounds: 8