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Virginia holds back Pitt 61-49 at JPJ

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Just win, baby!

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

For the third straight time since Justin Anderson went down with a broken finger, the Hoos demonstrated a shaky effort on the offensive side of the ball. And for the third straight time, the result was a victory, as UVA beat Pittsburgh 61-49 in a workmanlike effort in snowy Charlottesville. Behind a team-high 18 points from Malcolm Brogdon and stellar defense, the team improved to 24-1, tied for the best start in Virginia basketball history.

GAME STATS: Virginia Pittsburgh
Points Per Possession 113.4 91.1
Effective FG% 47.9% 45.5%
Offensive Rebound % 31.0% 29.0%
Turnover % 13.0% 22.3%
FTA/FGA 46.8 38.6

Like last year's contests with Pitt, this was a low-tempo, low-scoring affair. (The difference is that, unlike last season's stalwart Panther defense, this unit is last in the ACC, allowing 1.13 PPP in conference games). The Hoos climbed to an early 18-7 lead, scoring 11 points in under 4 minutes before the offense stalled, enduring two separate 4-minute stretches without points.

The good news: once again, excellent defense kept UVA firmly in the lead. The same Panther team, ranked 20th in offensive efficiency on KenPom, that scorched UNC for 89 points Saturday managed just 15 first-half points and .91 PPP on the night.  Jamel Artis did get hot from three, scoring 12 of his 20 from long range, but the Hoos quieted James Robinson, holding him to two points and one assist - he's averaged over 7 assists per game in his last 5.  This "double block" probably would have been a "triple block" if Justin was on the court.

Virginia's 25-15 halftime lead probably should have been larger - early on, the team had good looks but just couldn't find the bottom of the net. Evan Nolte's 0-6 effort (all five of his three-point attempts were open) was emblematic of the night.  The team had opportunities, couldn't convert, and got rattled, allowing Pitt to climb back into the game.

The Panthers would actually close to within three points at 36-33 after the under-8 timeout before an 8-0 Wahoo run, keyed by a Marial Shayok three-pointer (snapping an 0-9 shooting skid spanning 6 games), put the team back into the driver's seat for good.  Virginia would go on to score 17 more points in the final four minutes, 13 on free-throws, to make the score more palatable.

There were some bright spots. In a game that the front-court should have dominated against Pitt's undersized "big" men, it was guards Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes who led the way for the Hoos. Perrantes had a Perrantes-like stat-line of 1 turnover to 6 assists, accounting for over a quarter of UVA's 20 field goals.  He also grabbed two steals and scored 10 points, including 2 deep three-pointers from the top of the key.

Brogdon was steady once again, exactly as the Hoos need him to be without Anderson. He made each of his six free-throws, both of his three-point tries, and finished with 18 points, scoring his 1000th career point in the process. He also did this:

Finally, Anthony Gill deserves a shoutout for his tough work on the offensive boards, where he pulled in 4 rebounds. He scored 12 points on 3-7 shooting, and was knocked to the ground 3 times in game action. Seriously, how does this happen so often?

Despite Nolte's offensive struggles, Devon Hall didn't see the court. Tony Bennett explained that he is comfortable with the rotation he had of Nolte and Shayok, and praised Evan's defense and maturity.

Virginia hasn't been playing like the #2 team in the nation; without Anderson, their offense has definitely slipped (it's just fifth in ACC play, and that's including some stellar early-season efforts).  But their win-loss record doesn't reflect it.  This favorable stretch of schedule came at a perfect time, as long as the team continues to tread water and figures things out before the calendar turns to March.  And that favorable stretch continues, as Virginia has five days off before Florida State visits for the team's third straight home game Sunday night.