NCAA Tournament: Virginia tames Tigers, reaches Sweet 16
Five Cavaliers score in double figures; team reaches first Sweet 16 since 1995
RALEIGH, N.C. — In the final minutes of Virginia’s victory against No. 8 seed Memphis, “Sweet 16” chants filled the stadium. The 78-60 effort earned the top-seeded Cavaliers a trip to Madison Square Garden — their eighth Sweet 16 appearance in program history and first since 1995.
Five Cavaliers scored in double figures, as senior guard Joe Harris led the team with 16 points and redshirt sophomore forward Anthony Gill contributed 13 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
“It gives us a lot of confidence to beat a team like that by the margin we did,” redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon said. Brogdon added 10 points and tied sophomore guard Justin Anderson with a team-high four assists.
Facing a group of Memphis senior guards touted for their speed and athleticism, freshman point guard London Perrantes continued his heady play. Perrantes dished two assists and did not turn the ball over for the second consecutive game.
“Actually, I think it’s fairly easy for him because he plays with … so many solid guys that don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Memphis senior guard Joe Jackson said. “He just runs his sets and takes what the defense gives him. … They just wait until you make a mistake, and then they do what they do.”
Freshman forward Austin Nichols led Memphis with 15 points, while Jackson, the team’s leading-scorer, managed just seven points. Gill, senior forward Akil Mitchell and sophomore center Mike Tobey combined to hold sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin, the Tigers’ second-leading scorer, to seven points as well.
Memphis jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Tobey put the Cavaliers on the board with a jumper from the foul line. The game was closely contested for the first 10 minutes, with neither team leading by more than four points.
But with 10:15 to play in the half, Harris ignited a 20-6 Cavalier run to end the half when he drove the baseline and laid the ball in — the first of six consecutive Virginia baskets.
“I think we got the game at our pace,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “We were shaky early, but once we got back in transition defense and made Memphis play against the set defense we were good. We were patient offensively and screened them, and kind of wore them down it looked like.”
Following a Tobey jumper, Harris scored again in the paint and knocked down a 3-pointer, which Perrantes followed up with one of his own. After missing his first two attempts, Perrantes’ 3-pointer pushed the Virginia lead to 27-18 and sent the primarily Virginia crowd into a fever pitch.
“Everyone can talk about how good [the Cavaliers] are defensively, I actually disagree with everyone,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “I believe the reason they’re so good is because of their offense, because I think that sets up their defense. If you don’t guard their offense, they move as well without the ball as any team in the country, they set great screens and those three starting perimeter guys can all shoot the ball.”
Anderson scored a pair of buckets in the final two minutes of the half and Gill tipped in a Harris miss with three seconds to play, capping the run and staking the Cavaliers to a 35-20 first-half lead.
Virginia shot 56.0 percent from the field in the first half while stifling their opponent on the other end, holding the Tigers to their lowest first-half total this season. Memphis shot just 26.7 percent in the opening period, including 1-of-9 from long-range.
The Cavaliers missed their first two shots out of the break, but would make nine of their next 10 to push their lead to 59-38 with 11:17 remaining.
It was clearly Virginia’s night, as even Tobey sank a 3-pointer with 3:43 before the final buzzer to give his team a 73-47 lead. Tobey was 0-for-2 from beyond the arc this season entering Sunday’s game.
“I mean, I knew that was money from the start,” Tobey said, jokingly. “I knew if I missed that, I was coming right out, but I just wanted to shoot a 3.”
Sophomore forward Evan Nolte unleashed his “sneaky bounce,” as Tobey calls it, punctuating the night with a tomahawk dunk, assisted by a no-look pass in transition from Anderson.
Virginia will face No. 4 seed Michigan State Friday in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:57 p.m.
“It’s a great feeling,” Brogdon said. “We tried to get [to Madison Square Garden] twice last year and we couldn’t do it. It’s huge to get there, we call it rarified air. Only 16 teams get there, it’s a privilege.”