Dec. 4, 2014
By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With the shot clock about to expire, Malcolm Brogdon pulled up for a 3-pointer at the top of the key. The basketball dropped through the net with 3:59 left, pushing seventh-ranked UVa’s lead back to 14 points, and reality set in for the Maryland Terrapins.
“You really saw their heads drop a little bit,” Brogdon said.
The Terps’ fans reacted in much the same way. Many of the thousands of students who’d booed and jeered the Cavaliers throughout this ACC/Big Ten Challenge game began heading for the Xfinity Center exits, their reservoirs of vitriol depleted.
By game’s end, most of the home fans in the crowd of 15,371 were gone, and Virginia walked off the court with a 76-65 victory over No. 21 Maryland.
“My high school coach used to say, `The best sound on the road is silence,’ ” UVa forward Evan Nolte said, smiling.
The victory was the Wahoos’ seventh in their past eight meetings with Maryland, which left the ACC for the Big Ten this year. Off to their best start since 2003-04, the Cavaliers (8-0) never trailed against the Terps (7-1).
Still, little came easily in this one for Virginia, which plays VCU (5-2) in Richmond at 2 p.m. Saturday in a non-conference clash ESPNU will televise.
Two starters suffered injuries Wednesday night — 6-8 senior Darion Atkins (back) and 6-6 junior Justin Anderson (ankle) — and that forced 7-0 junior Mike Tobey, 6-5 freshman Marial Shayok and Nolte, a 6-8 junior, into prominent roles off the bench.
Moreover, the officiating crew called 28 fouls on Virginia (to 19 for Maryland). No Cavaliers fouled out, but Shayok, Anthony Gill, London Perrantes and Isaiah Wilkins each ended the game with four personals.
“It’s a little bit of a scary feeling,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of the foul trouble, “but I was thankful for the depth we had.”
At halftime, four UVa players had two fouls apiece, and Wilkins had three.
“It was definitely a funny game,” Gill said, “just because every time we ran down the court, it seemed like the whistle was being blown, and a foul [was called] on us. But it’s just one of those things that happens. We have to adjust to it.”
Bennett said: “As the game wore on, I thought we got a little better at trying to tighten up our defense and playing great position [defense]. I said, `Look, if they’re going to make some plays over the top, so be it, but let’s tighten up a little more,’ and guys tried to really slide and play hands off.”
Atkins, a graduate of Landon School in Bethesda, Md., was hurt in a hard fall with 4:08 left in the first half and did not return to the game.
Anderson, a graduate of Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., lasted longer, and he totaled 16 points and six rebounds. But with 9:24 remaining in the second half, Anderson rolled his left ankle, and he watched the rest of the game from the bench.
“This was the first time [this season] really we had that kind of adversity like that, with people getting hurt and fouls,” said Nolte, who played 23 minutes and helped the `Hoos limit Maryland standout Jake Layman to 14 points. “It was great for everyone to kind of step up and play their roles and be ready off the bench.”
Tobey, in 22 minutes, contributed 14 points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal. Shayok played a career-high 26 minutes and finished with nine points (also a career high), five boards and four assists.
“That was probably the craziest place I’ve ever played in so far in my basketball career, so it was pretty cool and fun,” Shayok said.
Overcoming a hostile environment made the victory that much more satisfying, Shayok said. “It showed how close we are as a unit, how we came together and just stayed together throughout the runs [Maryland] made and the calls we got and all the negative stuff we had to encounter throughout the game.”
Gill said: “I think it just gives us confidence. It shows us that we can do it through adversity, through everything that comes upon us. If we just keep having faith, we can do it.”
Midway through the second half, Bennett said, “I talked to our guys and said, `This is going to come down to who’s got the most composure and the most grit at the end, and that’s both defensively and offensively.’ And our guys didn’t get too sped up and panicked.”
The Cavaliers kept their composure, Bennett noted with a smile, on a night when they “felt intensity from the crowd, the warm fuzzies that [Maryland fans] always give us when we come here.”
The unflappable Brogdon led the `Hoos. Coming off a game in which he’d struggled offensively against Rutgers in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., the 6-5 redshirt junior sparkled Wednesday night.
Brogdon made 6 of 10 shots from the floor, including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and scored a game-high 18 points.
“I thought he let it come more, which was very important,” Bennett said. “In the Rutgers game I think he was driving the pile a little bit and forcing, and I just thought he had a better pace [Wednesday night].
“I thought he had a nice balance tonight. I thought that was important, and as a team we were better with that feel tonight as well.”
Gill added 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes. His final field goal, off a pass from Perrantes (seven assists, no turnovers), put Virginia up 61-44 with 7:45 left. The Terps continued to battle, but UVa never allowed them to sustain any momentum.
“I thought Virginia was terrific from the beginning to the end,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought their defense showed what Virginia is about, and I thought their execution was better.”
The Terps, who played without two of their best players, Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz, asked much of Melo Trimble and Dion Wiley, and the freshman guards combined for 28 points. As is so often the case, though, UVa’s defense won more than its share of battles. On a night when the Cavaliers shot 53.1 percent from the floor, they limited Maryland to 40-percent accuracy. Virginia outrebounded the Terps 34-22.
“Our goal is always to just try to take away the lane, which we didn’t do well, but really make [opponents] take contested shots, and limit them as best as possible to one shot,” Bennett said.
“To see only three offensive rebounds [for Maryland] makes me smile, because that’s huge for us. But it’s just a matter of working, being in a stance, relying on each other. It’s really a help-oriented defense, and the guys have to be willing to play for each other.
“Nothing flashy, but it’s our way. We know that. Our chance to be good is for us to be as close to great defensively as we can, and then solid and sound offensively. That’s our formula.”
VCU’s formula is to run and press and try to speed games up, and Saturday’s game will present another challenge for Virginia, especially if Atkins and Anderson are not available.
When the teams met early last season at John Paul Jones Arena, Treveon Graham hit a contested 3-pointer from about 25 feet with 1.4 seconds to lift the Rams to a 59-56 victory over the Cavaliers.
The atmosphere for the rematch at the sold-out Siegel Center is “gonna be crazy,” Brogdon said.
That would have been an apt description of the Xfinity Center for much of Wednesday night, too, but the Wahoos walked away unfazed.
“We could unraveled a few times with the injuries,” Bennett said, “but the guys stuck in there, and I told them after the game, `You were enjoyable to coach tonight.’ ”