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Hoos Defense Holds Strong as they Down the Eagles, 67-55

NCAA Basketball: Boston College at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Eagles headed down to Charlottesville Tuesday evening to take on a mid-tier opponent in the UVA Cavaliers and to try to build a little momentum after their home win against Pitt. This was the 5th game for the Eagles in the past ten days so it was no doubt that Grant would have needed to leverage his bench as tanks would assumed to be running dry.

The first half, however, did not exactly exemplify any bit of lethargy coming from the Eagles out of the gate. Nonetheless, it was the illusion of Tony Bennett’s classic slow-pace and defense heavy style of play that made it seem as though the game was being played in slow motion. Ten minutes into the contest the game was very methodical in approach as the Eagles played down to UVA’s pace and tried to weave their way to the cup past a stingy Cavalier front-court. Early on, the Eagles were finding success with backdoor cuts and second-chance opportunities and occasionally finding Brevin Galloway on the perimeter who finally snapped his 0-19 three-pointer drought with 2 first half three-pointers.

The issue for the Eagles is that Virginia’s defense held firm and made it near impossible for the Eagles to break out on a scoring run giving them just enough time to get their offense clicking. After going nearly six minutes without a field goal, UVA began to wake up and use their big men in Francesco Caffaro and Jayden Gardner to do the dirty work down-low. They also began to effectively turn their defense into offense by forcing the Eagles to commit 8 first half turnovers of which the Hoos cashed in for 15 points.

While the Eagles did end up going into the break trailing by 5, 30-25, there was certainly a ferocity about the team that made this appear as though it was a winnable game and, as a viewer, the momentum did not necessarily seem all one-sided. It was clear that to be effective in the second half, Grant had to make adjustments to tighten up turnovers, get cleaner looks and continue to try to keep the Hoos out of the paint and take difficult elbow jumpers. Unfortunately, that game plan did not materialize.

Right out of the gates into the second, the Cavaliers broke out on to a 9-2 run and seemingly did not turn back. While the first half for the Hoos saw most of their scoring production coming from Jayden Garden they began to spread the rock more and get the ball into the hands of their playmakers. Kihei Clark and Armaan Franklin lead the way in scoring for UVA and continued to take advantage of BC turnovers who commited 14 in the game.

Once the Hoos broke into double-digits, they kept their foot on the gas and continue to stymie the Eagles offense who finished 23.8% from 3 but still managed to shoot 40.4% from the field. While the field goal percentage is not terrible by any means, it was a lack of continuity and turnovers that prevented the Eagles from clawing their way back into the contest. Makai Ashton-Langford was also silenced from scoring until around four minutes in the game and finished with just two made field goals. Hard to win when your best player cannot find the basket.

Credit given to James Karnik who had a tough task ahead of them in stalling UVA’s bigs. Karnik finished with a team high 16 points and still proved to be a powerful force down-low but had to split his minutes with Post as the Cavs kept attacking and drawing fouls to keep him on the bench. In total, the Cavs were able to get to the line and shoot 29 free-throws and drill 26 of them totaling 39% of their total scoring from the charity stripe.

Chalk this loss up to turnovers, fouls and a stout defense in the Hoos. The Eagles now look ahead to next week where they welcome into Conte the Syracuse Orange with tip-off set for 8 PM EST.