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.
|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.
It seems America is starting to catch on, too:
Malcolm Brogdon just had his "ACC Player of the Year" and "First-Team All-American" statement game. He's been superb all season for Virginia— SI College Hoops (@si_ncaabb) February 28, 2016
Malcolm Brogdon's run vs. ranked teams in last 6 games for @UVAMensHoops makes it hard to beat him for ACC POY: 20.2 PPG, 52% FG, 26-26 FT.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) February 28, 2016
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.