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ACC BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK

ACC basketball notebook: Virginia aims to improve its rebounding

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Tony Bennett

Virginia coach Tony Bennett wants to see improved rebounding from his team.

Armando Bacot’s 22-rebound performance this past Saturday for North Carolina in its romp of Virginia in Chapel Hill has the Hoos seeking improvement on the glass with rival Virginia Tech coming to town for Wednesday night’s tilt.

The Tar Heels blew past the Cavaliers, 74-58, thanks in large part to Bacot. UNC had 14 second-chance points and outrebounded UVa 36-28 in the bout that snapped the Cavs’ two-game winning streak.

“The way they went to the glass and the way Armando did was terrific,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said Monday during the Atlantic Coast Conference coaches Zoom call. “He just sort of had his way and some of that is just strength and maturity on our part, but also there were a few we let go, so we’ve got to keep working on it. That’s really important.”

UVa’s leading rebounder is forward Jayden Gardner, who averages 7.5 boards per game, and fellow forward Kadin Shedrick tallies 5.3 rebounds per contest. Outside of those two, no one else on the roster averages more than the 3.8 rebounds per game guard Reece Beekman does.

The Cavaliers are 14th in the ACC in rebounding margin (-1.20), and more concerning to Bennett, they are 12th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (.696).

In each of the past three seasons, UVa finished first (.774 in 2020-21), first (.767 in 2019-20) and third (.746 in 2018-19) in the ACC for defensive rebounding percentage. Those three versions of the Cavaliers didn’t give their opponents another crack after an initial stop.

“Statistically, we haven’t been a real good [rebounding team] in all our years past and that’s a little skewed,” Bennett said. “But with our percentage of defensive rebounding and the rebounding of missed shots have been very good, and that has not been comparatively the case this year. And that’s hard when you’re giving up those extra possessions.”

The Hoos have yielded an average of 9.8 second-chance points per game this season.

In each of Bennett’s previous 12 seasons as coach, according to KenPom, UVa has ranked among the nation’s top 50 in preventing offensive rebound percentage. This season, the Cavaliers are 254th.

Coaches find league is balanced

Miami’s nine-game winning streak, unbeaten league record and victory this past Saturday night at Duke couldn’t even propel the Hurricanes into the AP Top 25.

Currently, the ACC’s only ranked squad is the Blue Devils, who check in at No. 8. As of Tuesday, Duke, along with three other one-loss teams in the conference — Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame — sat behind Miami in the ACC standings.

“The ACC regular season is not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” Miami coach Jim Larrañaga said. “And every game is important. And being 5-0 is great, but we’ve got 15 more conference games and you’ve got to prepare for each one of those and you never know when you’re going to face adversity.”

Aside from Miami’s lengthy run of consecutive wins, Notre Dame has captured five victories in a row. But other than those two, no squad has a current winning streak longer than two as teams in the middle of the pack have beaten up on each other.

“It’s so balanced,” Bennett said. “Everyone was saying Duke is so far ahead, but you’re looking at how good Miami is and everyone has a chance this year. Perhaps it’s a little different than other years when there were three No. 1 seeds and all of that, but whoever is ready and playing their best basketball can probably be successful.”

Said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim: “We have a good conference. I think the teams are good. I think the teams are a little underrated. I think looking back to last year, we had a lot of doubts and then teams played well in the tournament. But, I think we’ve got a lot of good teams and we just didn’t play particularly well in the nonconference part of the year and that put us in this position.”

Williams doing it all for Deacs

Oklahoma transfer Alondes Williams is producing in a variety of ways for Wake Forest.

Williams is second in the ACC in scoring while averaging 20.4 points per game and at the same time, he tops the conference in assists (5.06 per game) and is 14th in rebounding (6.69 per game).

If Williams finishes the campaign as the conference’s leader in scoring and assists, he’d be the first player in ACC history to do so.

Demon Deacons coach Steve Forbes said Williams, an ex-JUCO standout at Triton College, is filling a different role at Wake Forest compared to the one he had at Oklahoma.

“The first couple of weeks of practice it was pretty apparent to me that he was a great passer,” Forbes said. “But I’m not going to tell you that I thought he’d average 20 points a game.”

Williams averaged only 6.7 points per game for the Sooners last winter, but now he regularly is in a position to make decisions.

“And he has the ability to see the floor and read the defense,” Forbes said. “He’s got great size with the ball in his hands. He’s got strength and he’s a good teammate. He’s made two passes as the leading scorer — one to win a game against Charlotte and one to tie the game against Syracuse – so he’s not one of those guys that feels like he has to make the play.”

Wake visits Virginia on Saturday.

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