The trend of Virginia basketball being invincible after losses this season continued Tuesday night, as the Cavaliers (13-9, 7-5 ACC) defeated Boston College 67-55. After a back-and-forth first half, Virginia came out on fire to start the second, increasing the margin to double digits, and the Eagles (9-12, 4-7 ACC) could never truly get back into the game. In what has become a theme for the team this season, Virginia had a balanced scoring attack, with four players reaching double digits and senior guard Kihei Clark leading the way with 19 points.
After winning the tip-off, Boston College scored a quick four points as Virginia’s defense took a bit of time to get settled in. After coming back from a media timeout, what looked to be a routine offensive foul on junior center Franciso Caffaro was accompanied by a technical foul, making the referees particularly unpopular inside John Paul Jones Arena. The ensuing free throws put the Cavaliers in a hole to start the game, facing a 11-8 deficit with 11:36 to play.
Neither team shot particularly well to start the game, with the Cavaliers making just one of their first eight field goals and the Eagles cooling off after a hot start. Virginia would then make three of its next four shots to take a 17-14 lead, but Boston College graduate guard Brevin Galloway would hit a three-pointer to tie the game back up. Junior guard Armaan Franklin answered, however, putting the Cavaliers back up by two with 6:18 remaining.
Virginia would break the game open after the under-eight timeout, going on a 7-0 run and forcing Boston College into a nearly four-minute scoring drought. After going on a small run of their own, the Eagles brought the deficit to as small as three before senior guard Kihei Clark beat the buzzer to send the teams into halftime with a 30-25 advantage.
Stifling defense was the story of the first half for the Cavaliers, especially towards the end of the period. Virginia forced nine turnovers by the Eagles and capitalized on the other end, scoring half of their points off of Boston College miscues. Seemingly every possession on defense took most of the shot clock, and the visiting team simply could not find any easy looks, resulting in two shot clock violations to the delight of Virginia fans in the building.
Coach Tony Bennett said he was pleased with the defensive effort during his postgame press conference.
“I said [to the team], ‘Everything you got, defensively. This cannot be a lukewarm defense,’” Bennett said. “Most of the night we made them earn their looks.”
The Cavaliers started off strong in the second half, building the lead to as much as 11 before Boston College called a timeout to preserve possession with the score at 36-27. Throughout its run, Virginia would continue the trend of free throws being its best offense. The Cavaliers would make their first 14 shots from the line, and having the ability to get to the free throw stripe was especially important considering the team’s nonexistent three-point shooting throughout the game.
Boston College’s struggles offensively continued to show during the first part of the second half, as the Eagles scored just four points in the first six minutes of the period. Thanks to Virginia’s excellent defending, the lead would balloon to as much as 15 before a timeout was called with 11:10 to play and the score standing at 46-33.
Throughout the middle of the second half, Boston College would slowly chip away at the lead, getting it to single digits with a basket by junior forward Quentin Post. On the other side of the court. The Cavaliers went on an all-too-common scoring drought, with a basket by Gardner being their first points in nearly four minutes. After a media timeout, the arena got the loudest it had been all night as Clark stole the ball and scored, but the Eagles answered with a three of their own to make the score 50-40.
In the meantime, Virginia held a comfortable lead on the court, but Boston College simply wouldn’t go away. There seemed to be a barrier at the 15-point mark, as the Cavaliers could not build a larger lead than that, but the Eagles had trouble cutting the deficit significantly as well. Virginia’s lead was never less than eight, and the Cavaliers were able to comfortably ride the rest of the game to a 67-55 victory.
This was a vintage Tony Bennett victory for the Cavaliers, with the defense being the star of the show. If Virginia can control the pace like it did against Boston College, the Cavaliers will be a tough out for anyone in the conference.
Virginia stays in Charlottesville for a key ACC matchup against Miami scheduled for Saturday. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m., and the game will be televised on ACC Network.