Just one game away from heading to the NIT semifinals in Madison Square Garden, Virginia fell 75-64 to the Iowa Hawkeyes to end the team's 2012-2013 campaign. UVA couldn't take care of business against a hot-shooting Iowa squad that was led by Roy Devyn Marble's 24 points. The loss also snaps a 19 game winning streak at home; Virginia's last defeat at JPJ came at the hands of the Delaware Blue Hens in the preseason NIT quarterfinals, also with a trip to the Garden on the line.
Iowa will move on to play Maryland in the NIT's "Final Four." Virginia's season is over, with the team finishing 23-12, 11-8 in ACC play, and 20-2 at home. Yes, UVA was 0-2 in NIT quarterfinal games at JPJ and 20-0 in the remainder of its home games. (Maybe the mere prospect of having to play away from Charlottesville causes the team to struggle to win in Charlottesville)?
Tonight, the Hoos were simply outplayed by a very good Iowa team, which borders on the top 20 nationally in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. The Hawkeyes scored 1.17 PPP against a UVA defense that was tenacious at times, but inconsistent at others. Iowa shot 49% on two-pointers, and (despite coming in 310th in the nation in the category) made 8 of 17 threes, while sinking all 15 of its free throws. Virginia's defensive gameplan was sound, and the team showed some impressive flashes, but in the end Iowa executed and made their shots, some tough ones and a few too many easy ones.
The Hoos came out with intensity and energy at home but just couldn't keep up with the shooting barrage. Justin Anderson put the team on his back all night, finishing with a career-high 24 points and making 5 of his 8 three-pointers. He was also a force on defense, blocking 5 shots including a LeBron James-esque stuff off the backboard on a fast break.
With a boost from Anderson's efforts, the first three-quarters of the game were closely-contested; the Hoos trailed by three points at halftime, and led for parts of the second period. However, trailing 49-46, UVA were guilty of a series of defensive breakdowns that allowed the Hawkeyes to take control of the game for good. Iowa scored the next 9 points, capped by a backbreaking three-pointer by Zach McCabe in which defenders were caught napping in transition, a no-no for Bennett's squad.
UVA didn't nearly have the firepower to win a shootout against a very good defensive team. Mike Tobey scored 15 points, aided by his 4 offensive rebounds, and Akil Mitchell had 9 on 2 of 6 shooting. Paul Jesperson hit a three-pointer and Teven Jones made a floater.
The only other scorer for the Hoos was star Joe Harris, who failed to recover from a swoon that has ailed him since his 36 point performance against Duke. Harris had 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting. He made two big three-pointers, but failed to act as the dominant force that fans had grown to expect throughout the season. In his postgame, Tony Bennett postulated that Harris was just worn down from a grinding late-season stretch. (Aren't we all?!)
It's obviously difficult to summarize such an eventful season in a short space, and I won't endeavor to do so at this point. We'll have plenty of time to look back at an exhilarating year and look forward to an exciting future (so expect lots of coverage at Streaking the Lawn). But as the year transitions from the fast-paced grind of March to a painfully long offseason, a big thank you must go out to the student-athletes who worked so hard to allow us fans to experience an extraordinarily entertaining four months of basketball. Here's to a refreshing offseason...and to a groundbreaking 2013-2014 season.
Last words to some of the players:
Thanks for supporting us through a long season! #wahoowa— Justin Anderson (@HooNamedSimba23) March 28, 2013
Thanks for a great year! Can't wait till next year— Michael Tobey (@miketobey10) March 28, 2013
It's been an amazing year— akil mitchell (@ajmitchell25) March 28, 2013