Virginia got off to a fast start, then held off a late Boston College run to win their 6th straight game, 77-67. Malcolm Brogdon's 17 points and steady hand at the free throw line were enough to overcome a feisty Eagle squad at JPJ. With the win, UVA improved to 9-1 in ACC play, while BC fell to 2-7.
Early on, this matchup looked like it would be another laugher, when the Hoos scored 15 unanswered points to grab a 20-5 lead. UVA took a 41-20 score into halftime, and led by as many as 21 points early in the second half (the 7th time that the team has led by 20+). The Hoos took advantage of a porous BC defense to get to the rim at will, and impressively shut down a capable BC offense early on, holding them to 3-14 three-point shooting and .75 PPP in the first half.
However, BC wouldn't back down. The team chipped away at the lead, then made a late run to cut the game to 73-67 with 40 seconds to play, finishing as the only ACC squad other than Duke to score more than 1 PPP against UVA (ending at 1.08). A rash of early foul calls early in the half seemed to sap UVA of its aggressiveness, as BC had its way on offense for large stretches late in the game. For much of the time, Boston College's lackluster D masked the issues; however, when the Wahoo offense sputtered, particularly at the FT line, the lead narrowed.
Brogdon made 8 of his 9 attempts from the FT line, while his teammates made a brutal 11 of 25. Evan Nolte went 2-6, Harris was 2-5, and Akil Mitchell made 1-4. This team will be tested at the line down the stretch one of these games, and must do a better job of sinking those shots. The demoralizing misses allowed BC to sneak back and make things close at the end.
Despite their record, BC is a solid offensive team. Oliver Hanlan and Ryan Anderson have led their squad to a top-40 efficiency ranking on KenPom, and 4th in the conference ACC play. Their style, spreading out the defense and using lots of motion and screens, is particularly effective against the Packline; the Eagles made their 3-pointers, but also looked inside during the second period, while they had seemed intent on sending everything back out behind the arc earlier on.
Virginia was still able to outgun Boston College for most of the second half. Anthony Gill and Justin Anderson played well off the bench, scoring 13 points each by using their athleticism to get to the rim and draw contact - their efforts were highlighted by this ferocious Anderson dunk:
BC actually finished making a higher percentage of threes and twos than UVA, and posted an eFG% of 57%. Luckily, Virginia dominated the boards, pulling down 90% of Boston College's misses, while allowing BC a DReb% of 67%. Second chance points allowed UVA to build their early lead, and that's what eventually made the difference in the game. The Hoos also turned the ball over just 6 times against the turnover-averse BC defense.
While the game clearly left areas for concern, the result was a good one for the Hoos, and all is forgiven with a win, isn't it? The referees looked to come out at halftime on a mission, calling 31 second-half fouls and throwing the Wahoo defense off its game. While the officiating was bizarre, it's not a good excuse. Hand checks are a point of emphasis this year, and the team did a poor job of adjusting. The Hoos fouled often, including a three-foul possesssion early in the half, then looked to get skittish and allow guys like Ryan Anderson (20 points, 8-11 shooting) and Hanlan (14 points, 4-10) too much space. Losing Justin Anderson (fouled out) and Joe Harris (4 fouls) also hurt the defensive unit.
The foul trouble did allow Evan Nolte and Darion Atkins, who have been lost in the rotation at times, to come in and make positive contributions. Nolte played a season-high 19 minutes and was active on both sides of the ball, finishing with 9 points on 3-5 shooting, including two easy lay-ins. Darion Atkins played 9 minutes in relief of Mitchell and a mismatched Tobey, making both shots he took.
Just like the blowout loss against Tennessee inspired the Hoos to become good at basketball and never lose again, all we could hope is that the lackluster second-half defense and poor FT shooting inspire the team to finish games and not scare all their fans. In seriousness, Bennett could use the close finish as a teaching tool; UVA has a strong team, but not strong enough to sleep on even the conference's weakest opponents.
Virginia won't have the home crowd to fall back on when the team heads to Georgia Tech on Saturday to take on the 3-7 Yellow Jackets. GT is a mirror image of Boston College, as its defense is respectable (67th in adj. efficiency), but its 209th-ranked offense is an issue. That game tips off at noon and will be televised on the ACC Network and ESPN3.