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Defensive Switch Fools Terps

After Virginia's Mamadi Diane drilled a three-pointer to put the Cavs up by three with 38.5 seconds to go Saturday evening, mass confusion ensued on Maryland's part. This much is clear.

The main reason was that Virginia opted to go into man-to-man defense, rather than use the zone that had disoriented the Terps all afternoon. Virginia Coach Dave Leitao said* afterward that he had considered switching to man defense a few possessions earlier but "didn't like the feel."

* Many thanks to the Post's Virginia beat writer, Zach Berman, for forwarding over the postgame quotes from Cavaliers' players and coaches.

With Leitao's team in the lead and less than a minute to go, the time apparently felt right for a change, and it paid off in a big way for the Cavaliers.

Greivis Vasquez dribbled down court, hounded by Virginia guard Calvin Baker most of the way. Maryland Coach Gary Williams called out a zone play, thinking that the Cavs would stick to what had worked so well for them.

"We didn't want to give no open looks," Baker said. "They were executing real well against our zone toward the end. They were hitting open threes. We didn't want to give them open looks, so we went to man."

By the time Williams called an audible, it was too late. Vasquez avoided the screen Dave Neal was prepared to set and eventually took off toward the basket. He put up a shot that was awkward and heavily contested. It missed.

"Coach Leitao just told me, 'This is where men are made,'" Baker said. Leitao "told me to guard Grevis. I just try to pressure him and make him take an off-balanced shot. I kind of reached it, and my teammates picked me up."

Several Terps acknowledged the frustrations Virginia's zone defense caused them most of the day.

"It was part of our gameplan coming in," Leitao said. "I just didn't know from a time standpoint, how much -- looking at statistics, games -- and knowing that, especially early, because (Eric) Hayes hasn't started, you can slow them up a bit a tad mentality. And when Hayes was in the game, you can find Hayes, Neal and Vazquez. I thought the execution has been very, very good as of late, in the last month or so. And their flex offense gave us a little bit of trouble."

By the end of the game, the Cavs had returned the favor.

By Steve Yanda  |  March 9, 2009; 7:13 AM ET
Categories:  Men's basketball  
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Tough team, but need more "basketball smarts" and bigger play from the forwards.

Posted by: Towards_Light | March 9, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

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