Malcolm Brogdon scored 26 points and Anthony Gill added 14 points and nine boards as No. 3 Virginia continued to build a résumé that will get them consideration as a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday with a 79-74 win over No. 7 North Carolina in Charlottesville.
The Tar Heels simply could not slow down Brogdon in the first 20 minutes. He had 17 points and seven of his first eight shots from the floor. When he gets into a rhythm, he’s been near-unstoppable this season.
The second half was a different story, and it ended in such a fitting way. With North Carolina down 74-69, Gill missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with less than a minute left, but as Brice Johnson elevated to get the rebound, he landed awkwardly, fell to the ground and lost the ball out of bounds. It went in the book as Virginia’s 10th offensive rebound of the half. They finished with 10 second-chance points, and that doesn’t count the amount of time those extra possessions allowed them to bleed off of the clock down the stretch.
And that’s kind of been the moral of the story for the Tar Heels this season. Whether it’s failing to clear the defensive glass, an inability to slow down ball-screen actions or a simple lack of execution in critical moments, this UNC team has consistently proven that they struggle with making big plays in big moments. Call it a lack of physical toughness, mental fortitude, the clutch gene, whatever. I can’t trust them to win six games in March at this rate.
That’s before you factor in the Marcus Paige Problem. Paige entered the day averaging 9.0 points in his last 12 games while shooting 31 percent from the floor and 27 percent from three. He had 13 points in Saturday’s loss, but he was 4-for-13 from the floor and wasn’t anything close to the guy that looked like an all-american during the second half of his sophomore season.
Will we ever see that Marcus Paige again?
As far as Virginia is concerned, there really is a lot to like about this team. Brogdon has played his way into near-lock status as a first-team all-american, Gill is a hoss on the block and London Perrantes has a knack for hitting tough shots. With the supporting cast playing better defensively, this team has the pieces to make a run in the tournament.
That’s the monkey that’s on Tony Bennett’s back. He’s won three tournament games in six years at UVA. He’s lost in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed and in the Round of 32 as a No. 2 seed. Is this the year they shed that curse?