Feb. 6, 2014

By Jeff White (jwhite@virginia.edu)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — For everyone associated with the UVa men’s basketball team, the sight of Malcolm Brogdon at the free-throw line late in a game is a reassuring one. For opponents, not so much.

On a night when the Cavaliers made the final minutes more interesting than necessary at John Paul Jones Arena, Brogdon was his usual unflappable self. The 6-5 redshirt sophomore went 4 for 4 from the line in the final minute to help No. 20 Virginia secure a 77-67 victory over ACC foe Boston College.

Brogdon, who flirted with a triple-double, made 8 of 9 free throws Wednesday night. His teammates were a combined 11 for 25 from the line.

Virginia (18-5, 9-1) led by 19 points with 4:40 left, and it appeared head coach Tony Bennett might be able to clear his bench. But the Eagles (6-16, 2-7) capitalized on the Wahoos’ defensive lapses and struggles from the line, and a three-point play by sophomore guard Olivier Hanlan made it 71-64 with 1:03 left.

“I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit, and they’re a talented team,” Brogdon said. “They can shoot the ball, really better than anyone in the league, and we started sleeping on them a little bit.”

Brogdon, who’s shooting 89.2 percent from the line, steadied his faltering team, hitting two free throws with 47 seconds remaining to make it 73-64. Reserve forward Garland Owens answered with a 3-pointer — the Eagles’ ninth of the game — but they got no closer. Brogdon made two more foul shots with 36.2 seconds left, BC missed at the other end, and the `Hoos could finally relax.

The victory was the sixth straight for UVa, which trails only top-ranked Syracuse (22-0, 9-0) in the ACC standings. The `Hoos have won 14 consecutive ACC games at JPJ, a streak that began last season.

“It shouldn’t have gotten to that place if we would have taken care of business, but it did,” Bennett said. “We kind of managed to get the right guys at the line.”

He quickly corrected himself. “Or guy,” Bennett said.

That Brogdon is one of the ACC’s premier players becomes more apparent with every game, and if the season ended today, he might well find himself on the all-conference first team. Against BC, he totaled 17 points, a career-high 11 rebounds, a career-high seven assists, one steal and only one turnover in 35 minutes. The double-double was the first of his college career.

Three nights earlier, Brogdon buried a 3-pointer with four-tenths of a second left to lift UVa to a 48-45 win at Pittsburgh.

“It’s no surprise to us,” UVa sophomore Justin Anderson said. “He is a winner. He can do everything. He can run the [court], pass the ball, score, his ballhandling is great, and his hands are massive. He has a tremendous feel for the game, control over the ball, and his defense is getting better every game.”

The officiating was a major storyline Wednesday night, with 51 fouls called. Lonnie Jackson and Patrick Heckmann were disqualified for BC, and Anderson became the first player to foul out for UVa this season. His teammates Mike Tobey and Joe Harris played only seven and 22 minutes, respectively, because of foul trouble, but the Cavaliers still had too much firepower for the Eagles.

“We have a team full of depth, and I feel like anybody’s number can be called on any night,” redshirt sophomore Anthony Gill said. “We need different things from different people every night.”

More than half of Virginia’s points came from reserves Wednesday night. The 6-6 Anderson and the 6-8 Gill came off the bench to score 13 points each, 6-8 sophomore Evan Nolte added nine and 6-8 junior Darion Atkins chipped in four.BC coach Steve Donahue marveled at UVa’s depth.

Evan Nolte, who started [some] last year, comes off of the bench, Anthony Gill, who is a great player, comes off the bench, Justin Anderson, who is one of the best players in the league, comes off the bench,” Donahue said. “It is very impressive. Tony and his guys have done a great job developing this team, individually, collectively, physically, and skill-wise. It is just very impressive what they do.”

Bennett said: “Darion and Evan have not been getting much time, and then they got in there and they gave us quality minutes. And that was important, and I was thankful for that. Justin gave us a great lift. Our bench was important.”

BC, which usually has four perimeter players on the floor, relies heavily on 3-point shooting. When the Eagles are hot, they can be a difficult opponent, but they’re vulnerable inside and on the backboards. UVa outrebounded BC 40-27 and finished with 18 second-chance points.

“I think that is a key stat, as well as the bench scoring,” Bennett said.

Virginia, off to its best start in ACC play since 1981-82, came in leading the nation in scoring defense (55.5 ppg). That his team allowed 67 points disappointed Bennett. The `Hoos played superb defense in the first half and led 40-21 at the break, but BC shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes.

“We labored a little bit,” Bennett said, “and that was discouraging, because in the timeouts we were saying, `Finish strong defensively. A couple more stops and you’ll be in a good spot,’ and we could not do that.”

Fortunately for the Cavaliers, they had Brogdon.

“We needed him,” Bennett said. “We left so many points at the line, and that was discouraging, because we played well in stretches.”

Nolte said: “We guarded well for the most part, but I think we just kind of lost track of them at the end, and we need to be more disciplined.”

SOUTHBOUND: Virginia’s next game is in Atlanta. At noon Saturday, UVa (18-5, 9-1) meets Georgia Tech (12-11, 3-7) at McCamish Pavilion.

Injuries have hindered the Yellow Jackets this season, but big man Robert Carter Jr. is expected to be available Saturday. Carter, a 6-8, 247-pound sophomore, has missed Georgia Tech’s past 10 games with a knee injury. He’s averaging 10.3 points and 9.3 rebounds this season.

Brogdon (Greater Atlanta Christian) and Nolte (Milton) were high school stars in the Atlanta area. One of the Cavaliers’ recruits for 2014-15, 6-8 Isaiah Wilkins, is a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian.

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