Should we be worried about Virginia after last night’s loss?

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia is the two-time defending ACC regular season champions, and they’ve done it on the strength of a defensive system that is as difficult to score on as any in the country.

The Pack-Line. It’s a defense that Dick Bennett made famous and a defense that his son, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett, currently runs as effectively as any program in the country. Last season, the Wahoos finished first nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, better than Kentucky, who many believed had one of the best defensive teams of all time.

The only time that Virginia gave up more than 72 points in a game last season came in a double-overtime win at Miami. Only five times all season long did they give up more than 65 points. When they played George Washington last season, the Colonials managed all of 42 points. Part of that is due to the pace at which Virginia plays, but KenPom’s rankings are pace-adjusted.

Slow or not, Virginia had the most ruthlessly efficient per-possession defense in the sport last season.

RELATED: Kevin Larsen’s worst career game helped GW beat UVA.

That should tell you just how impressive it is, then, that GW was not only able to beat Virginia on Monday night — the Cavs went 30-4 last season and have 11 losses the last two years combined — but that they did so by scoring 73 points in a 68-possession game. Once the Colonials worked through their nerves on the first three or four possessions of the game, they seemed downright comfortable functioning against what’s supposed to be one of the best defenses in the sport.

“We got outplayed and out-executed,” Bennett said after the game. “Who are we and how do we have to play? Sometimes we forget, in these settings, just how tough it is.”

I have a few thoughts on what UVA did on Monday night and their outlook moving forward:

MORE: What is the Pack-Line defense and why is it so successful?

1. Fouls: Virginia is going to have to make some adjustments with the way that they play defense this season. The emphasis is on freedom of movement. You can’t put your hands on a driver. You can’t use your body to change the direction of their penetration. Ticky-tack fouls are going to get called all season long, just like they did on Monday night. GW shot 28 free throws. Darius Thompson, who is supposed to be Justin Anderson’s replacement as a defensive-stopper, fouled out in 23 minutes. Anthony Gill had four fouls. The ‘Hoos were clearly frustrated last night at the tight whistle — late in the second half, GW was able to get to the rim on repeated straight-line drives, something you never, ever see against UVA — and it doesn’t seem like that is going to change this season.

“I’ve got to get a feel for that,” Bennett said. “It is different. Everyone has to adjust to how they call it, and we gotta learn how they’ll call it.”

2. Slow rotations came back to bite them: The most impressive thing that GW was able to do on Monday night was force Virginia to change one of their defensive principles. UVA always uses big-to-big doubles on the catch on post touches to eliminate a low-post presence. Always. But Kevin Larsen eviscerated those traps, picking up four first-half assists. He made some beautiful passes, but Virginia’s defense was a step slow rotating on the weak-side. Credit GW for making the play, but those are plays that Virginia believes they should have been able to stop.

“When we went to trap [Larsen] was playing to pass,” Bennett said. GW head coach Mike Lonergan confirmed later that they “wanted Kevin to get double-teamed” because of how good he is passing the ball. “We just were out of our positions. We hung on too long. We know we’re supposed to scramble back and we were rusty. That cost us today.”

3. Losing Justin Anderson hurts: His ability as a perimeter defender was awesome. He’s 6-foot-6, 230 pounds and an elite-level athlete. Darius Thompson, his replacement, is listed at 6-foot-4, 196 pounds. Virginia certainly misses that defensively, but they also miss his perimeter shooting. He was burying threes at a near-50 percent clip when he was hurt last season. On Monday, the ‘Hoos were 5-for-20 from beyond the arc, many of their misses being good, clean looks at the rim.

4. But losing Darian Atkins hurt more: Anderson got all the press because he was hurt last season, his injury coincided with Virginia’s fall from title contender to a second round exit and he was a first round pick in the NBA Draft. But talk to any coach that had to put together a game-plan against UVA, and they’ll tell you that Atkins was, unequivocally, Virginia’s best defender last season.

“Atkins was their anchor,” said one coach who put together a scout on Virginia last season. “He was so good at the little things that people don’t notice. Curl protecting. Showing on the screen and giving the guard an extra second to get back. He’s so active, talkative. It was like they had six men on the court. And he protected the rim.”

“That dude … that dude was special.”

Mike Tobey is the guy that has replaced Atkins at the five this season, and while he is a load on the offensive end of the floor — he had 10 points and seven boards last night, scoring on a series of nice post moves and even burying a three — he’s not even close to being the same kind of defender that Atkins was. At one point in the second half, when Virginia stopped doubling Larsen in the post, GW made the decision to starting attacking Tobey. That was their advantage, and it worked.

5. GW is good: More than anything, that’s the takeaway that I have after watching this game courtside. They may be the best team in the Atlantic 10, and I would be shocked if they didn’t start picking up votes for the top 25 next week. Virginia clearly has some things to work through and are still trying to find a way to replace the pieces they lost last season, but this was a road game on the fourth day of the season against a well-coached, veteran, borderline top 25 playing in front of an absolutely raucous crowd. This was equivalent to losing a road game against a top-half-of-the-ACC program.

There’s no shame in that for Virginia. In fact, we should all be heaping praise on Tony Bennett for being willing to test his team on the road this early in the season.

 

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.