643268792
(Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)

No. 18 Virginia collapses in stunning overtime loss to Miami

Leave a comment

Freshman Bruce Brown knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer with under 30 seconds left on Monday night as Miami captured a key ACC road win over N0. 18 Virginia with a 54-48 overtime win.

Miami used a 9-2 run in the final minutes of regulation to force overtime as they looked dead for most of the game on offense. The Hurricanes only managed to shoot 36 percent from the field and 21 percent from three-point range but they were bailed out by going 20-for-22 from the free-throw line. Brown only had two field goals but finished with a team-high 14 points while Kamari Murphy (10 points, nine rebounds), Dejan Vasiljevic (10 points) and Davon Reed (nine points) also provided offense.

The Hurricanes (19-8, 9-6) entered this game having only two top-50 wins this season so this is a huge NCAA tournament booster for them as it should give Miami a lot more confidence heading into the home stretch. Miami still has a tough schedule the last weeks of the regular season but it also gives them more opportunities to get quality wins and grab a better seed.

For Miami to also win this one — and go 3-0 — without starting point guard Ja’Quan Newton during his suspension is also a testament to how much this team has improved. Newton’s offense should help the Hurricanes quite a bit and they get another test against Duke on Saturday.

Virginia (18-9, 8-7) lost for the fourth consecutive game as they continue a recent freefall that has exposed its offensive issues. For a team that has competed for the ACC regular season title lately, they are now just one game over .500 in the ACC entering the final stretch of the regular season.

Senior point guard London Perrantes (2-for-15, four points) struggled to find his shot on Monday as Devon Hall led Virginia’s offense with 15 points. For awhile it looked like Virginia would be able to win just by holding Miami in the 30s but the Hurricanes generated enough late offense to creep back in.

On a night when Malcolm Brogdon was in the house to get his number retired, this Virginia team once again showed how badly they miss having a go-to scorer like him from last season. They don’t have a closer, and although Perrantes has hit some big shots, he needs help setting them up if he gets crowded by a defender.

This year’s Virginia team can sometimes still manage wins just by slowing things down and trying to get stops. That means they are also susceptible to getting run out of the gym against good offensive teams because this team really struggles to put up points right now. It also means they have a difficult time closing teams out as we saw on Monday night with Miami’s late comeback.

ACC teams might be more familiar with Virginia’s scheme and personnel than normal programs and it will be interesting to see how the Cavaliers look during the quick turnaround of the NCAA tournament.

Big second half run leads No. 12 Virginia past No. 4 Louisville

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - FEBRUARY 06: V.J. King #0 of the Louisville Cardinals goes to the basket during Louisville's game against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on February 6, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chet Strange/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Virginia used a big second-half run to secure a big home win in the ACC as they beat depleted No. 4 Louisville 71-55 on Monday night. The Cavaliers found themselves down at the half only to start the second half on a monster 22-4 run.

Playing without Deng Adel and Mangok Mathiang (suspended for violating team curfew), the Cardinals didn’t have the firepower to stay with the Cavaliers once Virginia went on its big run. The No. 12 Cavaliers broke a three-way tie for second place in the ACC with the win as they try to keep pace with North Carolina.

London Perrantes led Virginia with 18 points while Isaiah Wilkins had 13 points and 11 rebounds as Virginia had a balanced offensive attack that outscored Louisville 39-21 in the second half.

Here are two takeaways from this one.

1. Virginia has Louisville’s number (and it will help the ‘Hoos NCAA tournament seed)

The Cavaliers (18-5, 8-3) just seem to have the Cardinals figured out. With four consecutive wins over Louisville and five wins over the last six games, Rick Pitino’s teams have struggled against Virginia since joining the ACC.

Most importantly for Virginia, two wins over Louisville this season gives Virginia a nice footnote for its NCAA tournament profile. Virginia’s non-conference wins ended up being worse than originally thought (wins over Iowa, Providence, Ohio State and Cal aren’t all that helpful) but beating the Cardinals means that Virginia might get two top-10 wins from one opponent.

With Virginia dropping a road game at Syracuse over the weekend, this win should elevate the Cavaliers back up to a potential top-three seed as they continue to try to stay with the ACC’s elite. If Virginia can keep winning games like this they’ll have a chance to climb even higher in tournament seeding since so many top-25 teams have lost games lately.

Virginia has a tough schedule to conquer the rest of the regular season but it also offers this team the chance to stockpile some more quality wins.

2. Being shorthanded finally caught up to Louisville but they’ll be near full strength soon enough

Louisville (19-5, 7-4) is already accustomed to playing without its full lineup as point guard Quentin Snider and reserve guard Tony Hicks have missed recent time due to injury. But two suspensions made matters even worse for Louisville with the loss of Adel and Mathiang on Monday.

With those two in the lineup, Louisville might have tried to press Virginia for the entire game — using its length, athleticism and depth to try to wear down the ‘Hoos and change what they’ve been doing in the past.

As I alluded to above, Louisville has struggled to figure out Virginia in ACC play the last few years so they really could have used those Adel and Mathiang in a game like this. It did give a chance for others to shine, as freshman V.J. King scored a career-high 24 points, but the Cardinals were also missing the depth that helps make them so effective.

With only King and sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell (16 points) scoring at all, Louisville’s offense really struggled, especially in the second half. The Cardinals also got destroyed on the glass as they were outrebounded 38-19.

Missing those two players certainly hurt Louisville in this one but the schedule gets quite a bit easier from here.

Louisville only has one ranked team remaining on the regular season schedule as they get two against Syracuse and games with Wake Forest and Miami. Those are three tough teams trying to fight for the NCAA tournament but the Cardinals should also be favored in most of those games as long as they have most of their lineup.

That means the Cardinals can still compete for the ACC regular-season crown if they win out — especially with a crack at conference-leader North Carolina on Feb. 22.

With Louisville expecting Snider to be potentially back by the weekend, they should be back to full strength for the stretch run.

Clemson’s uphill battle for the NCAA tournament continues with loss to No. 19 Virginia

LOUISVILLE, KY - DECEMBER 28:  London Perrantes #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers dribbles the ball during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at KFC YUM! Center on December 28, 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
1 Comment

London Perrantes knocked down a key go-ahead three-pointer with just under two minutes left as No. 19 Virginia outlasted Clemson for a 77-73 ACC road win.

With the game tied at 70 with two minutes left, Perrantes showed why he’s one of college basketball’s most clutch shooters by burying another game-deciding jumper. The senior point guard finished with a game-high 25 points as he led an efficient offensive effort for Virginia that saw the ‘Hoos shoot 58 percent (29-for-50) from the floor and 55 percent (10-for-18) from three-point range.

Virginia also had a strong outing from forward Marial Shayok, as he finished with 17 points and seven rebounds, while Isaiah Wilkins added eight points and 13 rebounds.

This is a nice road win for Virginia, especially since they’ve struggled in close games in ACC play. After some recent close losses to Florida State and Pitt in overtime, it was important for Virginia to come out on top on the road against a team with NCAA tournament aspirations.

While this win is solid for Virginia, this loss is potentially catastrophic for Clemson’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Losing against a top-25 team like the Cavaliers isn’t going to hurt too much but this now makes four consecutive losses for the Tigers as they now fall to 1-4 in ACC play and 11-5 overall. Clemson needs all the ACC wins they can get as they try to build up an NCAA tournament resume and the Tigers just squandered a valuable opportunity for a good win against a quality opponent.

Now Clemson has to go on the road at Louisville and host Virginia Tech in the next two games as neither of those two games are going to be easy to win. I think it’s safe to say that we’re getting close to must-win time for this team and the Tigers need to fix things in a hurry to save their season. Looking over Clemson’s resume, their best win at the moment is over South Carolina, so they really need to start picking off some of the ACC’s better teams in a hurry if they want to make it back in the tournament.

No. 25 West Virginia secures big road win at No. 6 Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - DECEMBER 03: London Perrantes #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers dribbles the ball against Jevon Carter #2 of the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first half during a game at John Paul Jones Arena on December 3, 2016 in Charlottesville, Virginia. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Coming into Saturday afternoon’s game both No. 6 Virginia and No. 25 West Virginia were trying to figure some things out offensively while sticking to recent identities.

The Cavaliers could rely on their trademark stingy defense to squeeze opponents into low scores while the Mountaineers wanted to press and use their length, athleticism and depth to wear down opponents and force turnovers.

Neither team had a real go-to scorer.

And despite Virginia dictating the game’s tempo, West Virginia was able to hang around long enough and deliver the final blow to capture a 66-57 signature non-conference road win on Saturday.

West Virginia (6-1) responded after Daxter Miles Jr. was ejected in the first half for throwing an elbow at the head of Isaiah Wilkins as the Mountaineers forced enough turnovers to outlast Virginia.

With the game tied at 55 with under two minutes left, Esa Ahmad (nine points) buried the go-ahead three as the Cavaliers went cold in the final minute.

Guard Jevon Carter paced West Virginia with 11 points while Nathan Adrian finished with 10 points. West Virginia forced 14 Virginia turnovers, which isn’t a particularly high amount, but in a game with fewer possessions as Virginia tends to play (61 possessions in Saturday’s game compared to West Virginia’s averaged of 75) that is a good amount.

This is a potential signature victory for West Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes. It also gives West Virginia a leg up as a bunch of teams are trying to jockey for position in the Big 12 as Kansas and Baylor have looked like the top two teams early in the season.

Winning at Virginia at least puts West Virginia in the conversation among the Big 12’s best teams. With the Mountaineers playing a pretty easy schedule this win was nice to have going into a stretch of winnable buy games that should inflate West Virginia’s record heading into conference play.

Virginia (7-1) jumped out to a 16-6 lead and looked like they might be able to run away with it early, but West Virginia was able to settle in and make it a slugfest. With the loss of Austin Nichols, this team is still struggling to find a guy who can get them easy buckets.

London Perrantes is more equipped to be a setup guy and Darius Thompson had some nice stretches to finish with 14 points, but he was also inconsistent and scored in bursts when the team needed a consistent shotmaker.

We know Tony Bennett’s team is going to defend all life out of you, but if the game is close and they need someone to take over the offense, they’re still seeking a go-to guy. In a deep and rugged ACC that should feature a lot of close games, this will be something to monitor.

Five-star 2017 forward Porter Jr. releases top five schools

Father Tolton Catholic's Michael Porter, Jr. (1) celebrates after sinking a basket and drawing a foul during the first half of the Missouri Class 3 boys high school championship basketball game against the Barstow Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
Leave a comment

As one of the top players in the Class of 2017, 6-foot-8 small forward Michael Porter Jr. has been on the receiving end of attention from many high-major programs. Monday night Porter, a native of Columbia, Missouri who’s ranked second in the class by Rivals.com, revealed his top five schools at this point in time.

The five schools that made the cut (in alphabetical order): Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington.

"Top 5 Top 5 Top 5" 🙏🏽 #Blessed

A post shared by Michael Porter Jr. (@m1chael_porter) on

Of the five schools on Porter’s list Missouri and Washington may be the most interesting given the family connections. Not only is Missouri the hometown school, but Porter’s older sisters Bri and Cierra are members of the women’s basketball team.

And one of the assistants on that coaching staff was Porter’s father, who earlier this spring joined Lorenzo Romar’s staff at Washington. The elder Porter isn’t the only Washington connection either, with Michael’s younger brother Jontay being a commit in the Class of 2018.

No. 10 Syracuse rallies from 16-point deficit to stun No. 1 Virginia

Syracuse's Malachi Richardson (23) drives past Virginia's Anthony Gill (13) during the second half of a college basketball game in the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
11 Comments

CHICAGO — Syracuse trailed No. 1 seed Virginia by 16 points early in the second half of Sunday’s Midwest Regional final and looked like they were about to get blown out. After shooting only 30 percent in the first half, the Orange gave up an Anthony Gill dunk on the first possession of the second half and Virginia had all of the momentum. A 16-point deficit against a slow-tempo team like Virginia can seem insurmountable.

Then freshman Malachi Richardson took over.

The McDonald’s All-American shook off an 0-for-5 first half to finish with 23 points as his personal 7-0 run gave Syracuse the final push they needed to shock the Cavaliers. Syracuse held Virginia to only four points the final 7:34 of the game as the No. 10 seed Orange advanced to the Final Four with a 68-62 win.

Richardson is a talented wing scorer who got off to a sluggish start on Sunday. After an early turnover in which he tried to take Anthony Gill one-on-one and stepped out of bounds instead of passing to an open Trevor Cooney, Richardson got chewed out during the ensuing television timeout by the Syracuse coaching staff and was benched. The poor first half continued after Richardson re-entered the lineup and couldn’t get going.

At halftime, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim singled Richardson out in front of the entire locker room and let the freshman know that the Orange needed more from him to reach the Final Four.

“He does it in front of everyone,” Richardson said of Boeheim’s message to him with a laugh.

Richardson responded by knocking down tough 3-pointers, attacking the basket and making hustle plays that kept possessions alive.

“Coach Boeheim kind of got on me a little bit and I knew I had to pick it up for my teammates,” Richardson said. “We couldn’t go out how we were going out. We were already down and I just wanted to help out.”

Not only did Richardson have a big second half in the biggest game of the season, he also did so against Virginia senior Malcolm Brogdon, one of the nation’s best perimeter defenders. After burying a stepback 3-pointer to give the Orange a 62-58 lead with 4:40 left, Richardson screamed as the Syracuse faithful reached a deafening pitch. Suddenly, a 15-point Syracuse deficit with 9:33 left had been erased and Richardson was slamming the door with big play after big play.

“Mali likes the crowd, he likes the stage. He likes to play on a big stage,” Syracuse assistant Adrian Autry said. “You never worry about him too much. Sometimes he does need something like Coach did to him. ‘Hey, come on! Let’s go. We need you to wake up. Make simple plays, not hard plays,’ whatever it may be. And he got going.”

Richardson getting going wasn’t the only change from the first half for the Orange. After coming back to beat Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 by incorporating a full-court press, the Orange used it again to speed up Virginia’s tempo and force bad looks. The press forced Virginia into a lot of uncomfortable offensive possessions and it once again changed the course of the game.

For a program known for sticking almost exclusively with a 2-3 zone, Syracuse is probably playing in the Final Four next weekend because of its full-court press.

“We talked about it halftime that we were going to go to it at some point,” Syracuse assistant Gerry McNamara said of the press. “Coach usually has a pretty good feel for when to use it. What it did is it got us aggressive in transition offensively and now we started getting some stuff to the rim. Once we started pushing their defense back, Mali hit a couple of difficult looks.”

After blowing the lead, Virginia still had a chance to tie, trailing 65-62, with the shot clock turned off, but Devon Hall missed a clean 3-point look from the left wing as Tyler Lydon (11 points, six rebounds) snared the defensive rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line.

Senior Michael Gbinije finished with 11 points and six assists while junior forward Tyler Roberson added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Orange.

London Perrantes buried five first-half 3-pointers to pace the Cavaliers’ offense with 18 points — with all of his points coming on the long ball. Brogdon struggled to generate offense as he went 2-for-14 from the field. Although he struggled from the floor, Brogdon managed to get to the free-throw line seven times (making all of them) and finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in his final college game.

Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey each added 10 points for Virginia, who finishes the season at 29-8.

Not many expected the Orange (23-13) to be in the NCAA tournament to begin with after losing in the opening round of the ACC tournament (as a No. 9 seed), but Syracuse has made the most of its opportunity in the Big Dance. The Orange’s zone defense has looked very good over the last two weeks, and the changeup to the full-court press has been effective in escalating things quickly for Syracuse.

For Syracuse to reach the Final Four a year after the program’s self-imposed postseason ban shows that they’re already way ahead of where they should be after the scholarship reductions and recruiting restrictions. Many shrugged when the Orange beat two double-digit seeds to reach the Elite Eight, but for Syracuse to eliminate a Virginia team that beat them 73-65 on January 24 shows how much they’ve improved over the last few months.

“It was a great comeback, one of the best I’ve coached in, any team I’ve had, in terms of you’re playing, I think, a great team,” Boeheim said. “Virginia has beaten us 15 points three straight times, and they were 15 points up today. They’re a hard team to come back against, and these guys just made some unbelievable plays. They deserved to win this game.”

When the game concluded, former Syracuse players like C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis and Rakeem Christmas took the floor to share in the celebration. The moment was special for Christmas, in particular, since he was a senior on last season’s team that was banned from playing in the postseason.

After clipping off his piece of the net, Orange senior guard Trevor Cooney jogged across the floor and gave a hug to Christmas. The former teammates weren’t able to play in the NCAA tournament together last season, but Cooney feels like Christmas and his inspired play last season helped the Orange reach the Final Four this season.

 

“Those guys all paved the way for us here. We learned so much from those guys. I learned a lot from [Rakeem] about how to be a leader and how to step up my senior year. Those things have paid off for us now.”