Charlottesville– Roaring orange and blue crowds are found screaming at the top of their lungs for shot clock violations. Three-pointers are splashing nonstop. Rim-rattling alley-oops spark chaos in John Paul Jones (JPJ) Arena. Non-conference basketball is back for Virginia basketball (2-0), as they tune up for the start of ACC play on January 5th. It’s the perfect time of year to focus on defensive fundamentals especially for the newer rotation guys such as Kihei Clark and Braxton Key. Learning the defensive positioning for the pack-line defense and how to close out quickly are two essential components for Virginia to retain it’s number one defensive rating. Virginia’s style of play predicates itself on swarming defense that creates turnovers and bad shot selection.
Their past two games, they’ve held both opponents to under 35% shooting from three-point range as well as force 31 turnovers combined. Virginia looks to continue this dominance against Coppin State (0-2), who is coming off two consecutive road losses by a combined 55 points.
Preview and Prediction: Coppin State Eagles vs Virginia Basketball
Can miracles happen? Yes, but only on ice. Coppin State does not have the talent nor the experience to withstand Virginia’s lethal backcourt duo of Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome. Their team is led by Virginia native Taqwain Drummond, who’s averaging 11 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1 assist. He’s a deadly shooter from three-point range, shooting at a 50% clip. Another player to look out for is sophomore guard Dejuan Clayton, who’s averaging 10 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1 assist. He also poses a long-range threat, shooting at a 50% clip.
However, there is one glaring issue: turnovers. Despite a two-game sample size, taking care of the basketball has been a huge issue. They’ve turned over the ball 35 times, leading to unwanted transition scores and extra possessions. This plays perfectly into Virginia’s offensive style, which ranks 327th in pace of play. Every possession matters for Virginia. They absorb nearly the entire shot clock before getting off a shot, which will most likely be high percentage and efficient.
Virginia’s offense has been buzzing nicely, averaging 74.5 points in two home games at JPJ. They are led by junior point guard Ty Jerome, who’s averaging 20.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. He’s been terrorizing opposing defenses with his ability to attack in the paint, create opportunities for his teammates, and shoot from deep.
Not to be forgotten with Jerome’s stellar play, Virginia also boasts another top ACC guard in junior Kyle Guy. Last year’s ACC tournament MVP, Guy is also building off last year’s success as one of the nation’s top scorers. In the two home openers, Guy has averaged 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. A fantastic off-ball shooter, Guy is still raining three’s in Charlottesville at a clip of 39%. Coppin State better pay extra attention to where Guy is on the court at all times. He can beat you off the dribble or find a sliver of space off a screen to get off a shot. His release is quick and deadly.
Just another walk in the park for Virginia. Though our past taunts us of underestimating teams, Virginia will have no trouble with the Eagles. Their defense will stifle them all night and hold them to under 35 points. Too much firepower to extinguish especially with projected top 15 pick De’Andre Hunter, who will use this game to refine his skills. AND we will get to see the White Mamba go to work. As a fan, it’s been so exciting to hear about a basketball manager score in a Division I game.