While editing anything I posted about the 2012-2013 Virginia basketball season, I had to make a conscious effort to ensure I wasn't overusing the term "roller coaster" to describe the progress of the team. It's not (completely) because I am a writer prone to cliches. It's because, well, the season was a roller coaster, filled with thrilling, even historic wins, and almost as many gut-wrenching, heart-breaking losses.
Here's a look at the three highest highs and three lowest lows of the aforementioned roller coaster. Incidentally, for better or for worse, these are also the 6 games that had the largest effect on UVA's failed March Madness resume.
Three best 2012-2013 Virginia basketball moments:
Honorable mentions: home win over UNC, sweep of Maryland (and VT, for that matter)
Virginia, sitting at 4-2 in the ACC, was at a crossroads. Despite the team's winning record, the Hoos had endured losses to bottom-feeders Clemson and Wake Forest, and badly needed a win against a ranked NCSU team to stay in the March Madness conversation. Luckily, the fans brought it BIG TIME to JPJ, and so did the team.
The win was far from routine. UVA trailed by as much as 10 points, including 7 at halftime. The offense struggled at times against a lackadaisical Wolfpack D, shooting 40.7% from the field and just 4 of 16 on three-pointers. Luckily, the Hoos shut down NC State's previously red-hot offensive attack, kept the game at a tempo they felt comfortable win (i.e. a a slow one), and chipped away at the lead in the second half. The Hoos were also aided when Lorenzo Brown left with an injury in the first half.
In the endgame, Jontel Evans came to the line, shooting 1-and-1, with a 56-55 lead and 26 seconds to play. He sunk both, later calling them the biggest ones of his life. This was especially miraculous considering he had missed all three free throws when he was inexplicably fouled on a midcourt heave before halftime.
Just weeks after losing at home to Delaware, Virginia had no shot at all to compete against the Badgers at the Kohl Center, right? RIGHT?! Wrong, the Hoos won 60-54 in Tony Bennett's return to Wisconsin, because of course they did.
This was Joe Harris's coming out party on national TV, as he accounted for more than 40% of the team's field goal attempts, finishing 8-19 with 22 points. Though Harris's three-point stroke was off, he found any other possible way to get to the rim and score. Akil Mitchell and Darion Atkins had big games on the interior, and Evan Nolte banged home both of the three-pointers he attempted.
UVA never trailed, but the game was a close one from start to finish. Wisconsin always seemed just seconds away from a run in front of a raucous home crowd, but the Hoos managed to squelch any sense of momentum each time, be it by a clutch shot or a key defensive stop. Despite a late scare, when a mini-late game collapse led to Wisconsin having the ball with a chance to tie, down three, the defense held and the Hoos had handed UW their first home non-conference loss since 1997.
HELL YEAH. In the biggest game to take place this century, the Hoos came into JPJ as slight favorites against #3 Duke, and took care of business.
Joe Harris had 36 points, carrying his team to one of the biggest wins in program history. I'm not going to try to rehash this in summary form, since I keep getting too giddy to concentrate on typing. Read our postgame, watch the VirginiaSportsTV highlights, repeat.
Also, remember how Coach K, (this guy), complained about poor security or something like that when UVA fans conducted a laughably orderly, though appropriately jubilant, court storming? He is just terrible.
I couldn't categorize this as one of the worst UVA games...but also definitely could not put it in the "best" moments category. Still, it's worth of mentioning in a recap of games that mattered last season, as the Hoos came oh so close to notching a road win against the nation's #2 team.
This was another wild endgame - with the Hoos down by 3 and 17 seconds remaining, Evan Nolte nailed a three-pointer on an in-bounds play drawn up by assistant coach Ron Sanchez. The ball bounced high off the rim, before somehow dropping in. However, Miami had plenty of time to reclaim the lead, and did so when Shane Larkin found Reggie Johnson for an easy lay-up on a rare defensive breakdown by Akil Mitchell. Six seconds still remained...but Paul Jesperson decided to inbound the ball directly to the waiting arms of Durand Scott and that was that. Opportunity lost.
Three worst 2012-2013 Virginia basketball moments
Honorable mentions: Season-opening loss at GMU, back-to-back road losses to BC, FSU after Duke win
In the second preliminary round of the preseason NIT, UVA had its hands full with Delaware. The Hoos trailed by as many as 18 points with 16 minutes to play before going on a 25-6 run to retake the lead. However, Devin Sadler nailed a three, giving the Blue Hens a lead it would not relinquish. Joe Harris scored 20 points, Akil added 15, and Atkins had 11. The only other scorers had 3, 2, and 2 points, respectively.
This wasn't a "heartbreaker" in the sense that the above Miami game was. However, the game had a great deal riding on it. Even going into last year, it was clear that it was vital for the Hoos to play against the likes of Pitt, KSU, and Michigan State in Madison Square Garden. If the Hoos had lost to KSU and Pitt rather than beating North Texas and Lamar, they would have, ironically, stood a better chance of a March Madness invite because of the RPI boost alone.
Lesson learned: You can't take a game off. (Tony Bennett also noted that he will think twice about scheduling tournaments that included these "qualification" rounds).
Heading into the Governor's Holiday Classic, ODU was 1-10. while Virginia rode an 8 game winning streak, including victories at Wisconsin and vs. Tennessee. However, the Hoos went to Richmond with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads a bit early (and a sick Joe Harris), and suffered one of the most bizarre defeats in college basketball last season.
It's tough to analyze this one much. UVA sleepwalked through most of the first half, but still built a 10 point early second half lead at 34-24. Then, the Monarchs poured in 21 of the next 25 points to stun Wahoo fans. Virginia had an unlikely shot to win in the final seconds. Trailing by three, Teven Jones nailed a deep jumper with 9 seconds to play but had his feet on the line. ODU then sunk one of two free throws, but Harris failed to corral the inbounds pass. ODU had their second win, and the Hoos had an unimaginably bad loss.
Yes, it was 1995 when Virginia last played on Saturday in the ACC Tournament. But throw all that out the window. This ACC quarterfinal matchup was basically a play-in game for the Hoos. Lose, and the team's March Madness hopes were likely done. Beat the Wolfpack for the second time that year, and UVA fans had to feel pretty good about the team's chances. (I stand by the fact that a win would have gotten us in).
Very quickly, the team's bubble finally popped. NC State played a perfect game, out-executing Virginia at every step of the way. The Hoos couldn't get a stop, they couldn't make a shot, and the game got out of hand by early in the second half, when State took a 19 point lead, sealed by Scott Wood's 7 for 11 three-point shooting barrage.
Ending a great season with such a listless outing was devastating. Better luck next year Hoos....and next year is finally just days away!
What were your favorite moments of last year? And...what would your rather forget?