Dec. 19, 2015
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Malcolm Brogdon rarely shows emotion on the basketball court. So when the All-America guard flashed a smile and motioned to the crowd Saturday as the final seconds ticked off the clock at John Paul Jones Arena, it was clear that No. 8 Virginia’s performance against No. 12 Villanova pleased Brogdon.
And why not?
The Cavaliers, in extending their winning streak to eight games, shot 58.3 percent from the floor in the second half and 56.5 percent overall. Against a team known for its prowess from 3-point range, UVA one-upped the Wildcats. The Wahoos hit 8 of 12 shots from beyond the arc and won 86-75, to the delight of a lively sellout crowd.
Eleven days after rallying to defeat then-No. 14 West Virginia 70-54 at Madison Square Garden, Virginia (9-1) vanquished another marquee opponent. Villanova’s longtime head coach could not have been much more impressed.
“We played a better team today,” Jay Wright said. “Their attention to detail, their execution is just on another level than ours right now.
“I have such great respect for them and how they play. Any little mistake you make execution-wise, offensively or defensively, they take advantage of it. They’re just waiting for you to make a mistake, and we made a lot.”
The `Hoos had more defensive breakdowns than head coach Tony Bennett would have liked — Villanova shot 57.1 percent from the floor in the first half and 49.1 percent overall — but their efficiency at the other end overshadowed those lapses.
The Wildcats “made us pay a couple times when we didn’t block out or we stood and lost vision … but our offense was good enough today,” Bennett said.
Virginia scored on 20 of its final 23 possessions against a team that came in with an excellent defensive reputation. The `Hoos had runs of 11-0 and 14-0 in this Saturday matinee.
“Guys just played well offensively,” Bennett said.
The list of UVA players who hurt the Wildcats (8-2) was lengthy. Brogdon, a 6-5 fifth-year senior, went 12 for 12 from the line and finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
The Cavaliers were 7 for 10 from beyond the arc in the second half, and Wright pointed to the impact of No. 15.
“It came from us not being able to guard Brogdon one-on-one and him just driving the ball,” Wright said. “Early, we were trying to contain him so we could take away [3-pointers]. We did a good job in the first half. And then they made an adjustment and had him just start driving the ball. We couldn’t contain him, so we started leaving shooters to help.”
Brogdon did more than attack the basket. The first of his two 3-pointers — a cold-blooded shot from the left wing — put the Cavaliers ahead to stay with 12:02 left, at 44-43, and started their 14-0 run.
But the Wildcats, behind 6-6, 240-pound junior Kris Jenkins, who made five treys and scored a career-high 23 points, fought back, as they did every time they fell behind Saturday.
With 3:47 to play, two free throws by Josh Hart cut Virginia’s lead to 68-64. UVA’s fans grew uneasy, but junior point guard London Perrantes calmed their fears.
After driving into the lane, Brogdon spotted Perrantes open in the right corner. Brogdon fired a pass to Perrantes, who buried a trey with 3:26 left. Suddenly it was a seven-point game.
“We have guards that can shoot the ball just as well as anybody in the country, I feel like,” Perrantes said, “and we just wanted to go out there and prove ourselves, and I feel like we did that.”
Perrantes scored all 13 of his points against West Virginia after intermission. Saturday, after a first half in which he turned the ball over three times, Perrantes again made his mark late.
“Usually he hits one or two of those daggers a game,” Wright said. “He hit a bunch of them today … He’s got a great knack for hitting big shots at the end of the [shot] clock.”
Perrantes scored 15 of his season-high 19 points in the second half Saturday. He was 3 for 4 from long range, all in the second half.
“He knows when to look [for his shot] and when to step up and be assertive,” Bennett said.
With the Wildcats continually battling back, the `Hoos “needed to answer,” Bennett said. “I wish we could have held them down more, but we needed all of our offense to beat them today.”
Virginia’s leading scorer was its best big man, Anthony Gill. The 6-8 fifth-year senior scored a season-high 22 points Saturday, making 8 of 9 shots from the floor and 6 for 7 from the line. He also had seven rebounds — three at the offensive end — and two steals.
“Gill is just a beast,” Wright said. “He is as efficient as anyone I’ve seen in a while in the post area.”
For Gill, it was his second straight tour de force. Against West Virginia, he hit 9 of 11 shots from the floor and totaled 20 points and 12 rebounds, a performance for which he was named ACC player of the week.
“Coach Bennett challenged me, maybe two weeks ago, and I kind of wanted to respond to that and be the player he wanted me to be,” Gill said Saturday.
Gill said Bennett talked to him about “attacking the offensive glass and responding to the coaches better. I was showing some bad emotion to some of the stuff they were saying, and he really challenged me to just be better in that area. And that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to go out there and just be quiet and play basketball.”
Bennett said Gill “showed some real good composure. I think he’s been showing more and more of that, lifting guys up and then stepping through at crucial times, and just being a man on the glass. He’s all over the offensive glass. He’s been strong and sure-handed.
“I think he’s played some real good games for us the last two or three, and it’s good to see.”
Foul trouble limited redshirt sophomore guard Darius Thompson to 22 minutes, but he made all four of his shots from the floor, including two treys, and scored 11 points. Also crucial, Bennett said, were the contributions of sophomore forward Isaiah Wilkins, senior center Mike Tobey, redshirt sophomore guard Devon Hall and sophomore swingman Marial Shayok.
“Very happy with all those guys, the way they stepped up,” said Bennett, who singled out the 7-0 Tobey’s defense on Villanova center Daniel Ochefu.
Wilkins, in the first start of his college career, totaled five points, four rebounds, two assists, a game-high two blocked shots and one steal.
With 45 seconds left, Villanova freshman guard Jalen Brunson hit a 3-pointer that trimmed Virginia’s lead to 79-75. After Brogdon answered with two free throws, Wilkins blocked Brunson’s shot and came down with the ball. That effectively sealed the victory for UVA, which will host yet another high-caliber opponent before breaking for the holidays.
At 9 p.m. Tuesday, in the first men’s basketball game between two of the nation’s most prestigious public universities, Virginia will take on California (9-2) at JPJ.
“It’s an exciting stretch leading into ACC play,” Gill said, “and it’s really going to help us when we get into the ACC tournament and into the NCAA tournament, playing these really good teams non-conference.”
Perrantes said: “Coach Bennett asked us before the season when he was making the schedule, `Do you guys want to do this?’ We all smiled, and we were just happy that we had this opportunity to go out and play some good teams at the beginning of the year. It’ll help us down the road, and I feel like Coach Bennett had faith in us. He’s been putting us to the test, and I feel like we’ve been responding.”
A limited number of tickets are still available for the Cal game, primarily in sections 301, 302, and 315, priced at $30 and $40. For information, call (800) 542-8821, visit VirginiaSports.com/Tickets, or stop by the Virginia Athletics Ticket Office in Bryant Hall at Scott Stadium.