Virginia turns back Florida State, 58-44

Brogdon steps up late as No. 3 Cavaliers advance to ACC Tournament semifinals

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Junior forward Evan Nolte knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 11 points in the win.

With under 10 minutes remaining, top-seeded Virginia clung to a single-digit lead against ninth-seeded Florida State. The Cavaliers put the ball in the hands of their lone All-ACC first team selection.

Malcolm Brogdon responded. After failing to score in the game's first 30 minutes, the junior guard scored 10 points in the final 9:02 to help the Cavaliers stave off pesky Florida State Thursday afternoon, 58-44.

The Seminoles (17-16, 8-10 ACC) pulled within six with 3:42 remaining, but Brogdon rolled in the front end of a one-and-one and converted the second attempt to push the lead to eight. He followed up by knocking his defender to the ground and then hitting a mid-range jump shot to stretch the lead back to 10.

“We’ll need more from him,” coach Tony Bennett said of Brogdon, who finished just 2-of-8 from the field but hit all six of his free throws. “[Brogdon] knows that, but he did make some buckets.”

Brogdon's late-game heroics were necessary after Florida State mounted an unlikely comeback to begin the second half. The Seminoles trailed 34-17 at the break and looked overmatched on both ends, but they scored 17 of the first 24 points in the second period to pull within five on a dunk by freshman forward Phil Cofer with 10:25 remaining.

Brogdon took control from there. He scored his first points on a pull-up jumper from the left elbow and had 10 of the Cavaliers' final 27 points down the stretch.

“I thought [Brogdon] was pressing a little bit,” Bennett said. “He got in foul trouble and sat down. He took a couple good shots that just didn’t go in, but in the second half a couple times I thought he pressed a little bit and forced the issue. I thought that’s a fine line because Malcolm is wired to be aggressive, I want him to be aggressive.”

Virginia (29-2, 16-2 ACC) was flawless out of the gate in its ACC Tournament opener, hitting its first six shots from the field. Junior forward Evan Nolte knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and the Cavaliers scored 12 points on their first five shot attempts to lead 16-2 five minutes into the game.

That fast start was a fitting prelude to another welcome sight for Virginia. Junior guard Justin Anderson, out since Feb. 7 with a broken finger and later appendicitis, made his long-awaited return and received a raucous welcome from the Cavalier fans at the Greensboro Coliseum.

Anderson's return gave Virginia an emotional lift, but his rust was apparent after missing more than a month of action. He finished 0-for-2 from the field with no points in 12 minutes of action.

“He hasn’t played – 32 days he’s been out,” Bennett said. “I was still [uncertain] if he could be out there ... We told him we were gonna use him in short stints, see what you can do. Of course he’s gonna be rusty, but I hope next time he’s out there he’s better, and you just kind of have to go through that.”

With Brogdon and Anderson — two of the team's three All-ACC selections — scoreless in the first half, it was the Cavalier frontcourt that did much of the damage. Nolte and forwards senior Darion Atkins and junior Anthony Gill combined to score 21 points on an efficient 7-of-8 shooting. They also helped Virginia double Florida State's rebounding total in the opening period, 16-8.

Junior center Mike Tobey scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds in 21 minutes on court.

“Just going into today, knowing they have a lot of big guys on that team,” Tobey said. “I just had to be aggressive on the boards. We’ve been really stressing that in practice and every day working on rebounding, so that was a really big key for us.”

Virginia shot 63 percent overall from the field in the opening period and held its counterpart to just 29 percent from the field to build a 17-point lead at halftime. But Florida State found its rhythm after the break as the Cavaliers went cold.

After scoring 12 points in the first four minutes of the first half, Virginia failed to score for the first 4:09 of the second half. Florida State used Virginia's offensive lull to pull within 11 on a 9-3 run to start the second half.

Sophomore guard London Perrantes' lay-up with 13:41 remaining pushed the Cavalier lead back up to 39-26, but the Seminoles scored eight straight points to pull within five. Cofer closed the run with an uncontested dunk, but Brogdon answered with his first basket to open up a game-sealing 19-10 run.

Virginia held its 15th opponent under 50 points and remained unbeaten when doing so. The Cavaliers held the Seminoles’ star freshman guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to just 13 points on 33 percent shooting one day after he scored 30 points and hit five 3-pointers against Clemson.

Florida State was eliminated in the ACC quarterfinal by the Cavaliers for the second consecutive year.

Virginia will face fifth-seeded and No. 19 North Carolina Friday at 7 p.m.

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