The Virginia Cavaliers built an early lead, then ran away with the game in a big second half to defeat Miami 65-40 in Charlottesville. After hearing suggestions of a "trap game" floating around all week, the Hoos demonstrated their focus once again, putting together another complete and balanced effort. Virginia improved to 15-1 in the ACC; all eyes turn toward Saturday, when Syracuse will visit JPJ for a matchup that will likely decide the ACC regular season title.
UVA started slow offensively, scoring 1 PPP during the first half because of struggles in the paint; the Hoos made just 24% of their 2s before halftime. However, the defense (and inaccurate Hurricane 3-point shooting), kept the team in the lead, as the Hoos had a 27-20 halftime edge.
During the second half, Virginia put everything together. The Hoos have been prone to scoring their points in runs lately. And while this wasn't the 25-0 spree against Notre Dame, UVA's 16-5 burst after halftime essentially put the game away. Once again, it was spurred by a ferocious Justin Anderson block, this time on an alley-oop attempt.
The defense was truly dominant, as the Hoos fixed some early defensive rebounding issues and shut down the paint. Miami finished with an absolutely brutal 26.1% eFG%, as they made 35% of their 2s and missed all twelve 3-point shots they took. The Hurricanes won 3 of their last 4 games by lighting it up from downtown, making 50% of threes in those wins; without those shots falling, they had no chance tonight.
Miami posted a total of .76 PPP, UVA's 2nd best defensive effort of the conference season (after NC State's .69 PPP mark back in January). The Hurricanes were lucky to reach 40 points, as they benefited from some late whistle-happy officiating. According to ESPN Stats & Info, UVA has held each ACC opponent to below their season average for points. That's some pretty impressive consistency, especially considering Virginia's slow pace is now the norm in the conference.
As the game went on, the Wahoo offense began to click. As bad as Miami was from behind the arc, Virginia was locked in. London Perrantes was the player to step up tonight, sinking 4-4 from downtown as part of his 5-5 for 15 points. Teams have been playing off London a bit, and he made them pay. On the other hand, he did commit a turnover - he's human after all. Joe Harris added 11 points, shooting 3-5 from long range and 4-9 overall. Malcolm Brogdon had 15 as well, shooting 4 of 9 and drawing contact to earn 7 FTs. As a team, UVA shot 39% on 2s but 56% (9-16) on 3-pointers, to finish at a stellar 1.18 PPP.
Miami's zone did bother UVA on the interior, mostly in the first half. Anthony Gill had 9 points and continues to draw fouls at outrageous clips. He had 4 field goal attempts but 9 free-throw attempts, though he only made 5 of those FTs tonight. That's gotta be a focus for Gill in the offseason. Akil Mitchell continues to be a force on defense, especially on the glass, but scored a quiet 3 points. Mike Tobey struggled a little on both sides of the ball, scoring 2 points on 1-4 shooting, including one ugly attempt that ended up over the backboard, while failing to bring down a defensive rebound once again.
The win is UVA's 12th in a row and 17th consecutive home ACC win. And most notably, it was Tony Bennett's 100th career win as head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. Bennett has improved the team's record in each of his 5 years as coach. It'll be interesting to see how he manages that next season.
We all know what's next. In what is probably the most anticipated game ever at John Paul Jones Arena, #4 Syracuse visits on Saturday. Despite increased media attention lately, the team has done an outstanding job of taking care of business without looking forward to the showdown with the Orange. That's no longer necessary. The team will be ready. The atmosphere will be beyond electric. And a win would mean elite NCAA seeding, an ACC regular season championship, and a ranking well in the top-10. That game tips off Saturday at 4 PM and will be broadcast by ESPN.
Let's Go Hoos!!!! #2FeetOnTheStep— Justin Anderson (@JusAnderson1) February 27, 2014