The Virginia Cavaliers continued their reign of terror through the ACC, dominating Notre Dame 68-53 in South Bend. UVA led from start to finish, and the game was not as close as the score hinted, as the Hoos were impressive on both sides of the ball. For the first time since Ralph Sampson manned U-Hall, Virginia is 7-1 in ACC play.
The Hoos once again got off to a quick start, grabbing a 13-4 lead and never looking back, leading by as many as 20 points in the first half. When Notre Dame used a late first half run to cut the lead to 10 points at halftime, UVA started the second with a 9-0 burst. The outcome was never in doubt. In each of Virginia's ACC wins, the Hoos had a 20 point lead at some point and the final margin was double-digits.
Malcom Brogdon led the Hoos in points, rebounds, and steals once again, scoring 16 on 7-10 shooting, bringing down 7 boards, and grabbing 5 steals. Brogdon's diverse game was on display, as he made 2 of 3 from behind the arc and broke the Irish defense down at the rim. Mike Tobey also shot 7 of 10 from the field, finishing with 14 points. After struggling offensively during the start of the conference season, he really turned it on tonight, looking more active on both sides of the ball. Not only did he put the ball in the hoop, but he rebounded well and did not back down defensively.
However, it was London Perrantes (and his 5 assist/0 turnover line) who stole the show, toying with the defense at times and dazzling the crowd with some fancy no-look dishes. The announcing duo of Digger Phelps and Bobby Knight were effusive in their praise of the freshman from California. I could watch this beauty all day:
Akil Mitchell only took 3 shots, finishing with 7 points, but continues to be a force on defense. When he graduates, we're going to miss his ability to hedge screens to half court then appear under the basket an instant later. Joe Harris and Justin Anderson finished with 9 points, but neither had their most efficient game, as they combined to shoot 7 for 17 with 5 turnovers.
Despite a few brief periods of sloppy basketball, the UVA offense took advantage of a struggling Irish defense. The Hoos finished making 56% of their 2s and 45% of 3s. Notre Dame switched to a 2-3 zone for a couple stretches, and Virginia looked completely unfazed. It wasn't exactly the Syracuse zone, but it was a nice start.
Defensively, the team once again looked elite, allowing .87 PPP to a pretty good offensive team (5th in offensive efficiency in ACC play, even without Jerian Grant). UVA forced 20 Notre Dame turnovers (against an offense that normally excels in taking care of the ball); that means exactly one-third of their possessions ended with Notre Dame losing the ball. And not only did UVA end Notre Dame possessions, but the improving Wahoo fast break converted their takeaways into points.
Winning on the road, especially after the tough travel situation the team had to deal with, really demonstrates the team's maturity. Poor teams collapse on the road (see Wake Forest's road struggles). Inexperienced ones show flashes at times, but struggle with consistency (see last year's UVA team, winning at Wisconsin but losing at BC, FSU, etc). But the really elite teams, the Syracuses and Arizonas of the world, overcome their sloppy stretches and take care of business.
At 3-1 on the road in ACC play, UVA already has improved on last year's 2-7 road record. Virginia is simply playing outstanding basketball, and the Hoos have a huge opportunity to notch a big signature win this Sunday at Pittsburgh. Pitt is one of the toughest places to play, not just in the ACC but all of college basketball, though the Panthers are coming off a tough loss to Duke. The Hoos have their work cut out for them, but they could make a serious play in the ACC title race if they continue their play on Super Bowl Sunday. The game tips off at 12:30 and will be broadcast by ESPNU.