Football is a game of inches. The hashmarks and yard markers make that pretty obvious.
The case can also be made for basketball as a game of inches, though the distinction is more subtle. The Virginia Cavaliers toughed out a 61-52 home win last night — their first ever over the Tar Heels in John Paul Jones Arena. In a hard-fought game, the difference often came down to position: where on the floor a screen was set, and how possession of that extra inch or two of space changed the flow of the game.
After the game, I spoke with UNC’s freshman starting point guard Marcus Paige (2 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers) about the devil in the details of his first ACC road test.
[UVA point guard] Jontel Evans had a big second half. How did his experience work in his favor?
He just kept getting in the paint. He was using screens, and they had shooters setting the screens, so it was difficult for our big guys to help out a lot, and if they did, they were kicking to the corner and shooting threes. He did a good job of attacking the paint.
Defensively, how did they frustrate what you guys were trying to do?
They didn’t let screens affect them. They were getting through them. They didn’t have to rely on their help very often. When you do that, especially with the way they pack in their defense and take away driving lanes, it makes it a little tougher to get good shots. And that’s what they’re known for, they make it tough to score. We should have executed a bit more sharply.
This being the first time that you’ve seen them, what did you learn about how to attack this kind of team?
You’ve just got to set better screens. To screen against a team that has great pressure, you have to make hard, sharp cuts. We didn’t do a very good job of that, and as a result, our offense got pushed back and we didn’t get good shots.
(On defense) our pressure kind of let up. We didn’t convert a lot of those turnovers – a lot of the time we just turned it right back over. We needed to pressure them a little more in the second half. It’s easy to say that now.
Over the next few weeks, will you guys be able to find that rhythm you need?
I think we can. We do a great job in practice, we just need to bring that over to the games, especially games on the road. Execution just needs to be better; focus and intensity.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.