The Virginia Cavaliers appeared to sleepwalk through the first half and much of the second against a strong California team. But the Hoos made plays when they needed them, coming from behind in dramatic fashion to down the Bears 63-62 in overtime in front of a delirious crowd at JPJ. Somehow, someway, Virginia won their 9th straight, improving to 10-1 on the season, on a London Perrantes game-winning three in overtime.
|Getting to the line (FT Rate)||31.5||25.0|
As has been a theme far too often this season, UVA dug itself into a hole in the first half with a listless performance. After entering the game ranked first in the nation in offensive efficiency, UVA laid an egg, shooting 4-22 from the field in the first period to trail Cal 27-20. Jarred Reuter led the team with 7 points, and a Perrantes 3 was the only field goal made by the team's starters. (To add insult to injury, ESPN2 cut away to show long stretches of Michigan State's close win over Oakland while the Bears went on long runs).
The Virginia offense woke up after halftime, but a similar effort by California stymied UVA's attempts to climb back into the game. During an early second-half stretch, the Hoos scored on 8 of 10 possessions, but their deficit remained at precisely 9 points with 12:45 to play.
Then, the tide shifted. Over the last 13 minutes of regulation, Cal made one field goal and scored 6 points overall. UVA slowly chipped away, taking its first lead of the game on a Darius Thompson dunk with a minute remaining. Cal tied it up again on 2 free-throws, then had a chance to win in regulation, but a clutch Malcolm Brogdon steal forced overtime.
Intent on making sure that their fans didn't get comfortable, the Hoos spotted Cal a quick 6-point lead, and trailed by 5 with the ball and a minute to play. Splash! Malcolm Brogdon drilled a three on a designed play off an elevator screen. Splash! London Perrantes came off a screen a hit a deep, off-balance three-pointer to give the Hoos a 63-62 lead. The defense stepped up and made a stop, and the Virginia Cavaliers had the unlikeliest of victories, reminiscent of the team's wild double OT win at Miami last season.
This win wasn't all rainbows. UVA looked truly awful in that first half, and were outplayed for most of the game on their home floor by a talented but very young Bears team. Despite his late-game heroics, Malcolm Brogdon had a particularly poor night, finishing 3-12 from the floor (including 0-7 on two-pointers). Anthony Gill led the team with 17 points; he was just 5-14 from the field, but a perfect 7-7 from the line. And Jarred Reuter finished with a career-high 11 in 16 big minutes.
One notable quiet night was had by Mike Tobey, who finished with 2 points (on an emphatic fast break dunk) in just 7 minutes of play, as he struggled on the defensive end. Cal's size seemed like a suitable matchup for Tobey, but Isaiah Wilkins saw the lion's share of the time alongside Gill, and Reuter was first off the bench.
The Hoos finished shooting a dreadful 33% on twos against one of the nation's best two-point defending teams, but made 7-12 from behind the arc. They were also out-rebounded (29% to 23%), including on some key boards late that could have averted the need for such drama. By dominating the turnover battle once again, UVA managed to cross the 1 PPP mark in an extraordinarily slow-paced game (61 possessions, including overtime).
While there was a lot to dislike, it feels way better to receive a "learning experience" after one of the most thrilling wins in recent memory than a depressing home loss. At the end of the day, Virginia buckled down on defense, made some huge shots, and gutted out a victory against a quality team. The Hoos could head home for Christmas with their heads held high, and return for the team's out-of-conference finale next Wednesday against Oakland (who took #1 Michigan State to OT tonight).