Virginia forward Jayden Gardner was All-AAC First Team last year for East Carolina. He was first in the American in defensive rebounding and second in scoring.
This year, after transferring to UVA, Gardner was 12/23 shooting in the first two games, scoring 18 in each. Heading to Houston, Virginia wanted to run their offense through Gardner but Kelvin Sampson planned to neutralize the talented forward. Kelvin Sampson’s postgame quotes are in bold italics
“We take shooters away. You can’t be democratic in your effort when you’re guarding shooters. You have to have a purpose. And you have to make shooters drivers.
This is the first possession of the game. The Cougars denied everyone who touched the ball until it went to Gardner. Fabian White gets caught helping here and the ball gets to Gardner in a flash. Gardner drives but Reggie Chaney is there to cut him off from the basket and to alter the shot.
When he gets the ball at the elbow, Gardner thinks he will knife to the hole for an easy basket. But he found out nothing about his night would be easy as the Cougars clamped down on him from the first possession.
How we guarded Gardner was a huge part of our game plan. And we’d seen him enough.
In February, Gardner scored 21 and pulled down 15 boards as ECU upset #5 UH in Greenville. Tuesday night, the entire defensive game plan was to nullify him.
After Gardner stole the ball from Kyler Edwards, he and Fabian White hustle back to contest Gardner’s shot. Fabian gets the block and, three minutes into the game, Gardner knows this won’t be last winter in Greenville.
Kelvin told his team that they would all be judged on what they did to disrupt Gardner’s game. Reggie Chaney comes in to help here, cutting off the inside as Fabian stays on Gardner’s outside shoulder. They fluster him again and he turns it over.
“The way we navigated and negotiated those screens tonight, for instance. They screen you three different ways, and I thought we defended all of them well.
Gardner tried to set screens but Kyler Edwards and Fabian White fought through them. White was prepared for when Gardner would set a screen which usually triggered UVA to feed him the ball. This is tremendous anticipation and reaction by Fabian.
Gardner took 13 shots and went to the free-throw line another 13 times in February. Tuesday night, he was held to just one field goal (2.5 minutes into the game) on four attempts and two free throws. He turned it over three times as UH defenders refused to concede an inch.
“We had a good plan. Our kids really executed it.”
How far did UH hold Gardner down? In a significant basketball analytic used by every program, Gardner’s efficiency (PTS + REB + AST + STL + BLK – Missed Shots – TO) was rated a two. He was able to do virtually nothing to help his team in ways that can be measured. In comparison, Ryan Elvin, who played one minute for UH, had an efficiency score of one.
In the analytic ‘net points’ (Points Produced – Points Allowed), Gardner was -18. Every UH player who got on the court was 0 or better, and the five starters were +13 or better. A big reason was UH’s refusal to give him any clean looks as J’Wan Roberts and Josh Carlton do here before turning him over:
All of these plays are from the first half (most were early in the first half) because Gardner was a non-factor after halftime (0/1 shooting and 1 rebound). UH’s early pressure knocked him off of his game and he never recovered.