On consecutive afternoons, the Wolfpack has shut down both Erick Green and Joe Harris – using a combination of in-your-face pressure and off-ball help to force the two All-ACC guards to shoot a combined 9-of-32 from the floor and score just 28 points total in two relatively easy wins.
"Scott did a good job on Joe Harris," Mark Gottfried said after Harris' 4-for-13 performance. "Not letting him get free looks. Our help was better and the defense was better."
Wood carried the load defensively a night after Lorenzo Brown did the same on Green. The Pack kept two prolific scorers in check over two days – two players that both went for 20-plus points in the Pack's prior meetings with the two Virginia schools.
"I thought they did a good job of overplaying," Harris said. "They made shots tough and contested and had a hand in the face."
The Pack has greatly improved in its help defense as well. On Friday, Brown would often break off of his man Jontel Evans to go for a steal or disrupt Harris. As a result, Harris ended up with five turnovers – just the second time all season he's had five or more turnovers in a single game. Without Harris, the UVA offense crumbled as it shot just 39 percent from the floor and only 25 percent of its 3-pointers.
But while the defense has clearly made huge strides recently, Miami provides the Pack defense with a completely different problem. Instead of one guy carrying a huge portion of the offensive load, Miami thrives by sharing the ball and getting points from a variety of positions on the floor. While the Hurricanes aren't as prolific at scoring at all five positions, there are some similarities between them and the Pack in how they go about distributing shots.
"They have guys that can make shots and they have guys that are built to win," Gottfried said. "Very few teams end up with that many veteran players at one time who are that good and Jim has done a great job with them. We got our hands full."
Virginia Tech has two players who average more than seven points a game. Virginia has three. Miami has five, including three double-figure scorers in Durand Scott, Shane Larkin and Kenny Kadji. All three, as well as Trey McKinney-Jones who averages 9.3 points a game, are also threats from the outside. Jones, Larkin and Kadji all hit over 37 percent of their 3-pointers while Scott is a streaky, but sometimes deadly, shooter from the outside.
"It's not a one man sport," Scott said after the Canes beat Boston College in the first game of the day. "So I don't look to try to match anything, I'm just trying to win the tournament. We need to do what it takes to win the tournament."
While Miami has plenty of balance, stopping them starts with stopping their sophomore point guard. Larkin uses his quickness to break down defense and get the rest of his teammates open and has been the best player on Miami despite being a second-year guy surrounded by five and six year veterans. If the Pack defense can keep Larkin in front of them all day, it'll be much harder for Miami to find open shooters on the outside and get on a run.
The Pack lost its only match-up of the season with Miami – a one-point loss in the final second at home – the only home loss of the season for the Pack. After evening things up with Virginia on Friday, the Pack looks to continue its revenge tour by taking down the team that gave them t heir only home blemish.
"It's definitely a revenge game the same thing as Virginia," Richard Howell said.