Kuiper’s Three-Pointer: Virginia-Pitt

College coaching consultant Denny Kuiper breaks down Virginia’s 48-45 win over Pitt.

This game was just what I expected – a defensive low-scoring struggle for both teams. The biggest lead either team had was four points, early in the second half by Pittsburgh. It’s very, very rare that a game is that close the entire time. The game was played just like you might expect from these teams; conservatively and in the half court.

Both teams shoot poorly from the field. The big reason for the poor field goal percentages was outstanding defense on both sides. But I also think there is more to it than just that.

Let’s go to the three pointers to take a look at the reasons for the poor shooting and other facets of this game.

1) Low Scoring And Poor Shooting

Often when a team plays against an opponents that is known for great defense, it plays tentatively and not to make mistakes. The mentality becomes “this is a great defensive team so it is going to be hard to get good shot, so let’s be patient.” That often contributes to a team not attacking and playing on its heels offensively.

Also, when you do get a good shot against a Pitt or Virginia team, you feel extra pressure to make the shot because the thought process is “I am not going to get many open shots so I better make this one.” It is hard to play good offensive basketball with that pressure. To be a good offensive player and team you want to play aggressive, confident and loose. Pittsburgh and Virginia do a great job of not allowing a team to feel and play that way.

Akil Mitchell’s Strong Game

Because this game was so low scoring no player ended up with outstanding offensive statistics, but Mitchell had a strong game with 10 points on 5-7 shooting and 12 rebounds.  Mitchell had a slow start to this season but has played well in conference play.

While having seniors on your team as a coach gives your team experience, it also can present different challenges. Often seniors realize it is their last go around and put pressure on themselves to play well. Also, seniors sometimes start to wonder and become concerned about their future in basketball after college. It is not always easy to get them to buy in into what is good for the team and play unselfishly. 

Mitchell and Joe Harris of Virginia both have seen their offensive statistics go down their senior year, but appear to have accepted that and have put the team above their own personal agendas. That shows the character of these guys and the ability of coach Tony Bennett to get them to be all about Cavalier basketball.  

Pitt Capitalizing On UVa Mental Lapses

Although the Cavaliers won this game, they had a couple of mental mistakes that could have come back to bite them in this low-scoring game where every possession is so important. 

The first was at the end of the first half with the game tied and Virginia holding for the last shoot of the half. Justin Anderson had the ball and was waiting to pass it to the point guard London Perrantes to run the offense. However, Perrantes did not break hard to get the ball, and Anderson was forced to try and make a play, which ended up resulting in a turnover. The Panthers turned that turnover into a basket at the buzzer. 

The second lapse was early in the second half with Pitt having the ball side out of bounds with only 1 second on the shot clock. The Panthers ran a back-screen on the weak side and lobbed it to the rim. Virginia did not bump the cutter on the screen and the Panthers got fouled on the attempted lob dunk. You cannot allow that play to happen.  

While these two plays did not cost Virginia the game, had the Cavaliers lost the game, they would have looked back at those type of mistakes with regret.

And One

Pittsburgh scored just one point in the last 6:54 of the game.  That is hard to believe.  After Cameron Wright made a very lucky three-point bank shot at the shot clock to put Pitt up 44-41, they Panthers were outscored 7-1 the rest of the way.

Probably the biggest miss of the game was with 13 seconds rmaining. Freshman forward Jamel Artis got an offensive rebound and just plain rushed his layup attempt to put his team ahead. Those things seem to happen in those games in which baskets are hard to come by.