CLEMSON — Dick Bennett, the father of Virginia coach Tony Bennett, created the Pack-Line Defense in the early 1990s as the solution to a problem. The University of Green Bay-Wisconsin coach sought a scheme to limit the dribble-drives and offensive rebounding advantages held by the quicker, taller more athletic players on power-conference teams.
Instead of playing aggressive man-to-man defense, where players contested passing lanes and ball-handlers on the perimeter, Dick Bennett packed his defenders into a 17-foot area around the basket to limit opponents’ scoring in the paint.
The defense worked. Bennett took the philosophy to Wisconsin and his son has taken the Pack-Line to Virginia (11-4, 1-1), which plays at Clemson at noon today. The defense has consistently placed Virginia among the nation’s best and the Cavaliers lead the ACC in fewest points allowed per game (51.1) and have the second-lowest opponents’ field goal percentage (35.7 percent).
The defense figures to present Clemson (8-6, 0-2) with a severe test: the Cavaliers will double-team Devin Booker, take away driving lanes, and force the Tigers to take jump shots. Clemson is shooting just 31.8 percent on 3s, 11th in the ACC, and did not make a jump shot at Duke on Tuesday until Milton Jennings connected with 2:12 remaining in the game.
“They don’t give up anything around the basket area,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “When they shoot they send two players to the boards and send two guys, sometimes three, back to set their transition defense so they don’t get beat that way.
Clemson was able to beat Virginia last season in part because the Tigers were able to kick the ball out and hit 3-point shots. Clemson also had an able shooter in Andre Young on its roster.
This year Clemson does not have a proven shooter.
“There’s no one on our roster that can be a lights-out shooter,” Brownell said. “We have to do a good job in recruiting and developing guys to become better shooters.”
The one Clemson player who does have smooth shooting mechanics and potential is 5-10, 170-pound guard Jordan Roper. Even though Roper is playing out of position as an undersized shooting guard, he’s logged at least 20 minutes in six straight games because of his shooting potential.
“Jordan Roper is a good shooter,” Brownell said. “What was good to see in the Duke game is I don’t think he played with any fear.”