After losses to UNC and Clemson in consecutive road games, Virginia's return to the friendly confines of John Paul Jones Arena to take on the rival Terrapins was a must-win for the team's psyche as well as its NCAA tournament hopes. With their backs against the wall, the 22nd-ranked Hoos took care of business, turning a 31-31 game at halftime into a 71-44 rout to pick up their 20th win of the season. UVA is now 20-6 overall and 7-5 in the ACC; Maryland fell to 5-7 inside the conference.
Any path to a Wahoo victory included two central tenets: first, shut down Maryland's prolific scorer Terrell Stoglin. Second, avoid another ice-cold shooting night. By doing both effectively, UVA gave the Terps no chance of pulling off an upset.
Mike Scott led the team with 25 points, scoring 16 of those in the first half. His 10 of 20 shooting reveals that Scott did not have his most efficient game, as he appeared to favor his ankle down the stretch. However, his continued ability to nail contested jumpers makes him a nearly unstoppable weapon.
The game got a bit too close for comfort around halftime; after Virginia jumped out to a 24-15 advantage, Maryland stormed back to tie the game at 31 behind a barrage of three-pointers. Stoglin somehow buried three heavily-contested consecutive shots from behind the arc, and Nick Faust hit one to tie the game with seconds remaining. The Terps took the lead after scoring just seconds after halftime but wouldn't threaten again, as the pack-line defense vexed them for the remainder of the game.
After James Badgett's bucket with 19:52 remaining in the game, Maryland would score just 11 more points. The Terps' first-half scoring was mostly the result of luck (in the form of 7-13 three-point shooting), and that became apparent down the stretch. Tony Bennett made some adjustments defending Stoglin; the taller Malcolm Brogdon did an outstanding job taking over primary duty, as Stoglin was held scoreless in the second half and finished with 14 overall on brutal 4 of 17 scoring. Stoglin didn't make a single two-pointer all night, as his penetration attempts were quickly shut down by intense on-ball defense and strong interior help. As a team, Maryland shot 27% and became the fifth UVA opponent has held under 30% this season.
Maryland was stuck at 33 points for over 8 minutes; during this time, the Hoos went on a 16-0 run that put the game far out of reach. Brogdon led the way during this period, throwing down a sweet dunk and finishing with an ACC career-high 14 points. After the game, Bennett praised Malcolm's complete play on both sides of the floor, as he performed ultra-efficiently. Besides his excellent defense on Stoglin, Brogdon shot 5 of 6 from the field, sinking both of his shots from behind the arc. Importantly, he also avoided turning the ball over, which been a problem for him all season.
Sammy Zeglinski also got in on the action, hitting two 3-pointers in a game for the first time since his 4 of 5 outburst against NC State. He excelled defensively too; though he was switched away from Stoglin, Sammy kept finding ways to get his hands on the ball, grabbing two steals (along with Akil Mitchell) and deflecting countless others.
Joe Harris's left hand has been the focus of Virginia fans since he went down with an injury one week ago. Today, he showed that he is clearly limited by the injury, but is still very important to his team. Harris did not handle the ball as often as he usually would, as teammates avoided throwing him tough passes. On one play, he received the ball under the basket but got blocked as he went up tentatively, missing a shot that he would normally make (see picture above). Still, Harris shot 3 of 7, effectively coming off of screens to hit mid-range jumpers. He played just 17 minutes, though two early fouls and the big late lead probably explain this more than anything. He isn't ready to drive the lane and hit the type of floaters he was shooting before his injury, but a Joe Harris at 75% still helps the team.
The players complimented the sellout crowd after the game. The crowd certainly provided the team with energy, particularly on the defensive end, though I thought the group as a whole was actually a bit sluggish, as we struggled to wake up during the 1 PM start (Yes, I am considering having to wake up at 11 AM on a Saturday difficult, my apologies). Paul Jesperson's three-pointer with 2:30 to play notably ignited the crowd, which earned buy-1-get-1-free Raisin' Canes chicken with the shot.
After the Clemson loss, during which the team attempted just one free throw, I spoke about the importance of UVA getting to the foul line. The Hoos did a better job of that today, converting 13 of their 15 free throw opportunities. Still, most of these came on fouls on the floor when the team was in the bonus, not while drawing contact going to the hoop.
The best message from the game was the one Tony Bennett gave Mike Scott; Scott reiterated it after: "[The message was] not to panic. We're fine. At Carolina our defense didn't hold up. At Clemson, we turned the ball over. We're just paying for our mistakes. We'll be fine. Don't panic." You heard the man, fans!
After winning a rivalry game at home, the Hoos head next to Blacksburg to play another on the road. You may recall that Virginia shot 1 of 14 from three-point range in its 47-45 defeat at the hands of the Hokies. That was bad; but this is a great chance to avenge that loss and pick up a huge and vitally important road game. With a win, the team would be sitting pretty at 8-5 in the ACC, while a loss would be tough to swallow and put extra pressure on the squad's last three games of the season. That one will tip off Tuesday at 9 PM and be broadcast by ESPNU.