Zone Busters: Perimeter Shooting Leads to ACC Hoops Victory
Jan. 16, 2002
Entering Tuesday’s game against ACC rival Wake Forest, the Cavaliers were enduring a three game scoring funk in conference play. After losing to N.C. State and Clemson, and edging North Carolina, Virginia was in dire need of increased offensive production. Flustered by swarming ACC zone defenses, the Cavaliers entered Tuesday’s contest averaging 65 points a game on 42% shooting from the field in conference play. The lack of offensive output stemmed from the team’s inability to score against the zone defense. The Cavaliers struggled to hit open perimeter jump shots while simultaneously finding it difficult to feed the ball to their post players. However, against the Demon Deacons, UVa rediscovered its offensive prowess.
The Cavaliers got off to a sluggish start as Wake Forest head coach Skip Prosser opened the game in a zone defense. Nonetheless, the Cavalier guards soon found their rhythm and shot their way out of the zone. Freshman Jermaine Harper hit two key jumpers that allowed Virginia to close an early deficit. After Roger Mason, Jr. drained his third three-pointer with 6:33 remaining in the first half, Prosser abandoned the zone.
Freshman Jermaine Harper recognized the importance of accurate perimeter shooting.
“Early in games we’ve been struggling with the zone,” Harper said. “Since we’ve seen it so much it was time for our team to get teams out of the zone. That’s what we had to do, shoot them out of the zone. So that’s what me and Roger did in the first half. Coach told me to shoot it when I’m open so that’s what I did.”
Once the Demon Deacons switched to a man-to-man defense, Virginia focused on feeding the ball to its low post players. 15 of UVa’s 28 field goals were either dunks or layups en route to shooting 49% from the field. Meanwhile, Virginia center Travis Watson created havoc on the offensive glass, pulling down eight of his career-high 17 rebounds in Wake’s defensive end.
“Teams are going to try to zone us and make us hit outside shots,” Roger Mason, Jr. said. “We have great shooters on our team and when we make our shots, teams are not going to be able to zone us all the time. We can go man and get the ball inside to big Travis. So it’s kind of pick your poison and tonight we exploited them.”