CHICAGO — The United Center was a sea of red and essentially doubled as Hilton Coliseum East on Friday night.
No. 1 seed Virginia didn’t seem to mind.
The Cavaliers jumped out to a 12-2 run to open the game and silenced the heavily pro-Cyclone crowd numerous times as Virginia advanced to the Elite Eight with an 84-71 win over No. 4 seed Iowa State in the Midwest Regional.
Virginia (29-7) prevented “Hilton Magic” from crossing state lines into Illinois as the Cavalier offense looked unstoppable against a helpless Cyclone defense for most of the game. Even with senior Malcolm Brogdon (12 points, 4-for-13 shooting) having a so-so night, Virginia carved up the Iowa State zone, and when the Cyclones tried to switch to man, they didn’t fare much better.
Virginia shot 56 percent (32-for-57) from the field for the game and collected seven offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
The inside duo of senior Mike Tobey (18 points, seven rebounds) and senior Anthony Gill (23 points, seven rebounds) proved to be too much for Iowa State’s interior defense to handle as they combined to shoot 16-for-22 from the field, soundly outplaying struggling Iowa State senior center Jameel McKay (four points, four rebounds).
“Since he had 20 rebounds our last [home regular season] game, he’s been playing that way since then,” teammate London Perrantes said of Tobey’s play. “I think it finally clicked that it’s his last go-around. So he’s not going out without a fight.”
Iowa State (23-12) never held a lead on Friday and also dealt with foul issues to star senior forward Georges Niang. When Niang picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, Iowa State had made a run to cut the Virginia lead to eight, but the Cavaliers pushed their lead back to 15 when Niang had to sit a few minutes. Niang led the Cyclones with 30 points and eight rebounds but he didn’t get much help from his teammates.
“I probably could have done a better job of putting myself in a better position, being a senior and not putting myself in position to pick up fouls,” Niang said. “Obviously that was frustrating, but this is do or die, win or go home, so I really just had to figure out a way to get through it.”
Junior Matt Thomas also added 12 points for the Cyclones while junior point guard Monte Morris finished with 10 points and eight assists. Deonte Burton added 11 points off the bench for Iowa State.
From there, the Cavaliers melted away clock with its patient offense and held on for the rest of the game. Virginia only committed seven turnovers for the game and made it difficult for Iowa State to get back in the game once they took the commanding early lead. Junior London Perrantes played a solid floor game to finish with six points and nine assists while sophomore Isaiah Wilkins added 12 points.
Virginia moves on to its first Elite Eight since 1995 and head coach Tony Bennett is building a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. The Cavaliers play a slow tempo and haven’t produced a lot of NBA-caliber talent over the last few years, but they continue to be one of the ACC’s best programs as they’re now one game away from the Final Four.
“You know, we’ve had a long season, and I feel like we’ve just gotten better and better,” Brogdon said. “We’ve battled through our ups and downs, and it’s a huge accomplishment.”
With a loaded recruiting class coming in next year, it’s not likely that Virginia falls from this kind of success anytime soon as they should have enough talent next season to be a major competitor in the national landscape as well.
This was the last chance for Iowa State to make a run behind Niang, who finishes his career as one of the Big 12’s best players in recent memory. With Niang, McKay and Abdel Nader all exhausting their eligibility, we’ll start to see more of an Iowa State roster that is Steve Prohm’s and it’ll be interesting to see how that transition goes after the talent assembled by former coach Fred Hoiberg starts to move on.
Prohm will have a lot of pressure on him to win with his own players, but he had a successful Sweet 16 run with this group and they were able to come together after a miserable stretch in the middle of the season that saw the Cyclones lose five of eight.
Virginia will face the winner of the No. 10 seed Syracuse and No. 11 seed Gonzaga game at the United Center on Sunday. The Cavaliers have previously defeated the Orange in ACC play, as Virginia won, 73-65, at home on Jan. 24.