Wednesday, March 20, 2013

a song of ice and fire

Don't go getting the idea that whatever that was last night was anything poetic (or prosaic given the title inspiration), or worthy of any songs.  Anyway, there won't be any danger of that if you saw the game.  It was really nice of the players to stage an impromptu Fan Appreciation Night by firing souvenir after souvenir into the stands, but you don't win games that way.  Tony Bennett won't be including "share the basketball" in his pregame speeches any more, because it's being taken far too literally these days.

But playing shit basketball is no excuse for losing.  Not to Norfolk State.  And good basketball teams are not immune to bad basketball, but they are expected to find ways to win games no matter how many times they oopsed the ball to the other team.  And they can't just do it by playing basketball because that's how they got in that predicament in the first place.  You've got to, in the words of the great Roman poet Cliche, "up your game."  It takes a little fire and a little ice.

That's where Akil Mitchell and Justin Anderson came in.  Their stat lines, other than their team-leading 15 points and Akil's double-double, don't exactly say "carried the team."  Akil shot 5-for-11 from both the field and the line.  He had five turnovers.  Anderson had three.  In fact, the five starters accounted for every single one of UVA's 16 TOs.

But when Norfolk State's press got even tougher than it had been and the Hoos looked like they might be on the cusp of a collapse, Akil Mitchell turned on the fire with a couple thunderous dunks.  Anderson brought his too.  Anderson put on his playmaking hat and the words "Akil Mitchell made dunk.  Assisted by Justin Anderson." started showing up in the play by play.  Athletic forwards who run the floor are poison to a press, and Mitchell and Anderson realized they were athletic forwards not a moment too soon.

Getting too amped up, though, is also poison; it sends all your shots bouncing everywhere but inside the hoop.  Veterans have a little ice too.  Mitchell had been clanging free throws all night, so when Jontel Evans went down hard and had to leave the game after earning an and-1, NSU naturally chose Mitchell to take the free throw.  They were repaid with some sweet string music.  When NSU hit a late-ish three to stay within threatening distance, their hack-an-Ak game was repaid the same way.  Anderson drilled four in a row not two minutes earlier.  If I was impressed with anything it was clutch free throws with Norfolk State playing rough and UVA firing up in response.  To switch the calm on and off shows a real degree of mental maturity.  Ice and fire.


-- I'm not gonna go so far as to label Norfolk State "thuggish" but they danced on the edge of the rulebook a few times.  The rules are inadequate to handle a situation in which a defender wraps up a ballhandler in a bear hug in order to prevent him from passing to an open teammate downcourt; either that or the refs were too gutless to call it as it should've been.  A provision for a clear path foul exists when you foul a dribbler who has nothing between him and the basket, but a passer - it doesn't exist.  And yes, when your hand flies upward and smacks your opponent (in this case, Evan Nolte) in the face, and you didn't get anywhere near the basketball, a flagrant foul needs to be called.

-- There've been occasional calls lately to get rid of the charging foul because of exactly the situation that Jontel Evans faced: a too-late defender attempting to take a charge without actually defending and undercutting the ballcarrier in the air.  Obviously getting rid of the charging foul is stupid.  I shouldn't need to explain that.  But perhaps they should rewrite things so that a flagrant, instead of a cheesy blocking foul, is assigned to a defender for undercutting an airborne shooter.  After all, there's no attempt to play the ball whatsoever.  It might make guys think twice about diving in for a charge when it's too late; the risk-reward balance isn't very high the way things are now.

-- Teven Jones played 11 of the most efficient and underrated minutes we've seen out of a player all year.

-- Nice win and all, kinda, but play like that against a decent team - even one that suspended its leading scorer - and the season will be over at halftime. 


Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a flagrant for undercutting an airborne shooter. I'm sure it would be really hard to clearly define when to call that, and really hard for the refs to call consistently, and we'd all bitch and moan... but they'd work it out over time, just like they have with flagrant fouls, and we'd all deal with it (or we'd all bitch and moan, whatever). The kind of fall Evans took -- the head first kind -- could easily result in a broken neck, if a guy hits the floor in just the wrong way. That's an outcome worth disincenting.

Adam said...

I've always thought the actual enforcement of charging strayed from the intent of the rule. Like this instance, I think its both lame, and dangerous for someone to pop out from behind a teammate and be able to draw a charge call while not playing anything resembling "defense". In the same token, I've never understood why you have to hit the ground in the Duke-approved charge drawing position to get the call. If an out of control offensive player runs into a defender, but they only stumble backward and not to the ground, it's often a no-call.

Also, cool UVA-Mariners article if you haven't seen it.

Anonymous said...

Justin Anderson may be the key to 2013-2014 being good or great. He's the one guy that has the athleticism to really break down and attack. He'a already shown he'll buy into Bennett's system. If we don't develop a top post presence, a guy that forces consistent doubles (Gill/Tobey seem the top possibilities, but both play on the perimeter at times as well), we'll need someone to create shots, and it'd be too much to ask Devon Hall to really dominate in his first year.

Anonymous said...

LOL at "Duke-approved charge drawing position". Good point, too.