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Three takeaways from Virginia's 79-74 win over North Carolina

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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the second consecutive year, ESPN College Gameday visited Charlottesville, raising an already key conference game to another level. This time, Wahoo fans went home happy, as the #3 Virginia Cavaliers powered past the #7 North Carolina Tar Heels 79-74 in front of a sold-out and loud crowd at John Paul Jones Arena.

Virginia North Carolina
Final PPP 1.20 1.12
Shooting (eFG%) 50.0% 56.8%
Rebounding (oReb%) 36.1% 39.4%
Turnovers (TO%) 11.5% 19.9%
Getting to the line (FT Rate) 34.4 22.0

Here are three takeaways:

1. Malcolm Brogdon is still on fire

Okay, we didn't exactly learn this; we knew it already.  Brogdon was already having an excellent season, but in the past few weeks, he has found another gear.

Brogdon finished with a game-high 26 points, as he made 6 of his 11 two-point attempts and 3 of 5 from three-point range. He also led UVA with 6 defensive rebounds, had 3 assists and 2 steals, and lost just 1 turnover despite handling the ball often against an aggressive UNC defense.

It seems America is starting to catch on, too:

Here's Brogdon's shot chart, from ESPN. He scores from everywhere:

And all his baskets deserve another look:

2. Virginia's front-court bounced back

On both sides of the ball, UVA's front-court trio of Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Isaiah Wilkins struggled against Miami. But the unit was the difference in the win over the Tar Heels.

Defensively, Brice Johnson was held to a manageable 12 points and turned the ball over 5 times. Virginia dared UNC to take threes and, while the Heels succeeded to the tune of 9-19 three-point shooting, it wasn't quite enough.

Against North Carolina, who tries hard to score in transition, I expected Tony Bennett to back the team hard off the offensive glass to ensure the team's defense was set. But they managed to succeed on both ends. North Carolina scored just 8 points in transition, with all coming in the first half. And Virginia matched UNC with 13 offensive rebounds. Gill had 4 of them, but 5 were officially credited to the team. Two of these came in the final minutes when UNC bobbled rebounds out-of-bounds.

Gill wasn't quite the Gill of earlier this season, but he was close. He fought for rebounds, finishing with a game-high 9, and scored 15 points on 6-11 shooting, including a few tough buckets in the second half. A couple of those misses were shots that he'd probably be frustrated to miss, but that doesn't change the overall efficient bottom line.  Isaiah Wilkins' speedy return was key for the Hoos. He brought in 4 defensive rebounds and was the best man to cover Brice Johnson.

UVA got a nice boost from Jarred Reuter too; he played 5 minutes off the bench in place of Mike Tobey and, despite not having a mark on his start line, provided a burst of energy and some stellar defense. Tobey left the game clearly frustrated after allowing a key offensive rebound in the first half and only returned sparingly.

3. Virginia was steady down the stretch

Some of the Wahoo teams from years past gave fans fits with their uneven play late in games. There were still some nerves tonight, because there always are, but the Hoos were steady in the face of a UNC comeback attempt.

Virginia didn't turn the ball over in the last 7 minutes of the game, despite an extended Tar Heel zone that UVA never got comfortable with. And they made free-throws down the stretch. Devon Hall and Anthony Gill each made key shots in the single-bonus in situations where misses could have spelled disaster.

Last year's "College Gameday" loss to Duke wasn't that different from the UNC matchup, with UVA having a small lead throughout most of the game. But last year, Virginia faltered in the final minutes, while Duke scored on 5 straight possessions. This time around, UVA didn't have a letdown on offense (and UNC doesn't have the shooting power that got Duke back into that game).