Malcolm Brogdon

AP Photo/Steve Helber

No. 4 Virginia beats No. 11 Miami to reach ACC title game

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WASHINGTON (AP) Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Malcolm Brogdon scored 24 points and No. 4 Virginia beat 11th-ranked Miami 73-68 Friday night to set up a showdown with North Carolina in the conference title game.

Virginia (26-6) and No. 7 UNC could each become NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds after impressive showings this week. Against Miami (25-7), the Cavaliers led wire-to-wire to the delight of the crowd that made Verizon Center feel like a home game.

Ja’Quan Newton had 19 points off the bench to lead Miami.

Beginning with Brogdon’s 3-pointer 48 seconds in, Virginia led the entire first half. The Cavaliers went up by as many as 11 as eight different players scored but watched as Miami went on a 6-0 run to end the half and cut the margin to five.

Facing the same kind of hostile environment as Thursday night against Virginia Tech, Miami cut it as close as three points. A series of turnovers stunted the comeback bid, and Brogdon went to work scoring and playmaking.

With help from Marial Shayok (10 points) and London Perrantes (11 points), Virginia pulled away to lead by 13 with 3:10 left. The Hurricanes must now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, where they’re expected to be a high seed.

UNC routed Notre Dame Friday to make it to the title game. Virginia won the teams’ only meeting Feb. 27 in Charlottesville. The game features the top two seeds after the top four reached the semifinals.

“The ACC is a great conference,” UNC forward Justin Jackson said. “So at the end of the day, that’s what you expect in the championship game: to have two really good teams.”

TIP-INS

Miami: Ivan Cruz Uceda did not play in the quarterfinal victory because of Virginia Tech’s speed, according to coach Jim Larranaga, who said the big forward would be a “major player” against Virginia. Cruz Uceda scored all eight of his points in the first half. … Senior guard Sheldon McClellan fouled out with 46.2 seconds left. He finished with 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting.

Virginia: Brogdon went 10 of 11 from the free throw line. … Virginia reached the ACC final for the sixth time in school history. … Last won the conference tournament in 2014. … The last time Virginia played in a game where each team shot over 50 percent was Dec. 7, 2013, against Green Bay.

UP NEXT

Virginiai: Faces seventh-ranked North Carolina for the conference title Saturday.

Miami: NCAA Tournament.

No. 4 Virginia clamps down on No. 11 Louisville

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In boxing there’s the old adage of “styles make fights,” with those styles either producing instant classics or absolute mismatches. When it comes to No. 4 Virginia and No. 11 Louisville this season, it was clear in their two meetings that the Cavaliers were a bad matchup for the Cardinals. Saturday night Tony Bennett’s team completed a sweep of the season series with a 68-46 win in Charlottesville, and it was Virginia’s seniors who led the way.

Malcolm Brogdon, who is seen by many as the favorite to earn ACC Player of the Year honors next week, scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and Anthony Gill added 15 points and four rebounds. But the senior star on this night was none other than Mike Tobey, who scored 15 points and corralled a staggering 20 rebounds on the night.

Tobey became the first Virginia player since Travis Watson in 2003 to grab at least 20 boards in a game, and his total was just eight fewer than Louisville tallied as a team. The rebounding number was just one aspect of this beating, a game in which Virginia controlled the action in all areas. Virginia committed 13 turnovers but shot 51.3 percent from the field, supplementing their scoring from the field with a 23-for-30 night from the foul line.

As for the defense, that was the biggest reason why Virginia is a bad matchup for Louisville. The Cavaliers limited the Cardinals to 27.6 percent shooting from the field, with Louisville getting just 14 attempts from the foul line (making ten). Gill’s ability as a defender in ball screens is well-known by this point, but he wasn’t the only Virginia big man who performed well.

Louisville’s guards were unable to turn the corner, and on many occasions the ball stayed on one side of the floor as a result. Quality shots were tough to come by, as one would expect when playing against Virginia’s pack line defense, and Louisville struggled mightily. In the first meeting, the Cardinals shot 32.7 percent from the field and had many of the same issues. Much was made of Virginia’s defense earlier this season and the underrated impact of Darion Atkins’ departure, and there was some work to be done when it came to how big men other than Gill defended in ball screen actions.

There were no such issues Saturday night, and as a result the Cavaliers will be the two-seed at next week’s ACC tournament. And if they can continue to defend at this level, Tony Bennett’s team will have a good shot at winning their second ACC tournament in the last three years.

No. 9 Virginia pulls away from Pitt 64-50

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PITTSBURGH (AP) Malcolm Brogdon scored 21 points and No. 9 Virginia pulled away from Pittsburgh in the second half of a 64-50 victory on Saturday.

London Perrantes added 14 for the Cavaliers (19-4, 8-3 ACC), who have won six straight and remain unbeaten (4-0) against the Panthers since Pitt moved to the ACC in 2013. Virginia took control after the Panthers tied it early in the second half, knocking down three straight 3-pointers during a game-turning 12-0 run.

Jamel Artis led Pitt (17-5, 6-4) with 17 points and Michael Young had 12 points and 10 rebounds but the Panthers again struggled to keep up with a quality opponent. All five of Pitt’s losses have come by at least 13 points.

Virginia outscored the Panthers 28-14 in the paint and converted 11 Pitt turnovers into 20 points the other way.

The Cavaliers have hit their stride following a bumpy stretch in early January that included consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. They’ve done it by getting back to what they do well -controlling the pace and hitting open shots.

It’s a formula that Pitt used for years to become a consistent contender in the Big East, one they’ve largely abandoned since joining the ACC. The Panthers have been steady if unspectacular this winter, with coach Jamie Dixon wondered how they’d won six of their first nine games in the league despite a notable lack of size in the middle and a toughness deficit. He addressed it by burying the whistle in practice and challenging his players to man up.

Needing a quality win to bolster an otherwise nondescript resume, Pitt couldn’t quite handle the Cavaliers.

Brogdon went off early, scoring 14 points in the first 20 minutes during a taut and entertaining back-and-forth with Young and Artis.

When Sheldon Jeter’s putback knotted the game at 31 a minute into the second half, the raucous black-clad Pitt student section came to life.

Just as abruptly, the Cavaliers took over. Brogdon hit a 3-pointer and Devon Hall followed with one of his own at the end of a possession that perfectly encapsulated what Virginia does so well. Perrantes had the ball on the wing in transition and could have taken a wide open 3-pointer. Instead, the ACC’s leading 3-point shooter pulled the ball down and the Cavaliers ran their offense to get Hall a wide-open 23-footer that he calmly drilled. Perrantes followed with a 3 of his own on Virginia’s next trip and when Hall hit an acrobatic lay-up while getting fouled, the ensuing free throw put Virginia up 43-31.

Pitt never got closer than nine the rest of the way as the Cavaliers cruised late in the game.

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers shot 48 percent (24 of 50) from the floor and 9 of 16 from 3-point range. … Virginia has outscored opponents in 20 of its 23 games.

Pitt: The Panthers shot 39 percent (18 of 41) and made just 2 of 13 3-pointers. … Senior point guard James Robinson was held scoreless on 0 for 7 shooting.

UP NEXT:

Virginia: Hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday

Pitt: Travels to No. 2 North Carolina on Tuesday.

SATURDAY’S SNACKS: No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 2 North Carolina fall on the road

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GAME OF THE DAY: Fresno State 111, UNLV 104 (2OT)

The Bulldogs outlasted the Runnin’ Rebels in Fresno, needing two extra sessions to do so. Marvelle Harris led the way with 37 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and just one turnover, with Julien Lewis scoring 18 points off the bench and forward Cullen Russo adding 17 points and ten boards. As for UNLV, five of the six players who scored reached double figures with Patrick McCaw (16 rebounds) scoring 28 points and Ike Nwamu 27.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES 

No. 9 Virginia 64, Pittsburgh 50: Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers won their sixth straight game, and in each of their last three wins Virginia has held their opponent to 50 points or fewer. Pittsburgh shot just 39.1 percent on the day against Virginia’s pack line defense, and on the other end Malcolm Brogdon and London Perrantes combined to score 35 points.

No. 3 Villanova 72, No. 11 Providence 60: The Wildcats once again played without the injured Daniel Ochefu, and once again they took care of business. Villanova limited the Friars to 19 first half points, and Darryl Reynolds (19 points, ten rebounds), Josh Hart (14 and 13) and Kris Jenkins (ten and ten) all posted double-doubles in leading a dominant effort on the glass. Ben Bentil scored 20 points for the Friars but Kris Dunn struggled, scoring 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting and committing six turnovers.

No. 4 Maryland 72, No. 18 Purdue 61: Trailing by four with just under six minutes remaining, the Terrapins went on a 9-0 to take control of the game in College Park. Rasheed Sulaimon scored 21 points and grabbed ten rebounds and Robert Carter Jr. added 19 and seven caroms for the Terps, who remain a game behind Iowa and Indiana in the Big Ten standings. And they can thank their refocus on the defensive end for the comeback.

No. 14 West Virginia 80, No. 15 Baylor 69: The Mountaineers didn’t force many turnovers, but they managed to win in impressive fashion nonetheless. Daxter Miles Jr. led four WVU players in double figures with 20 points and Jaysean Paige added 17 off the bench for Bob Huggins’ team, which is now in sole possession of first place in the Big 12. King McClure and Ishmail Wainwright scored 11 apiece to lead the way offensively for Baylor.

BUBBLE BANTER: No. 25 South Carolina, George Washington pick up big wins

STARRED

Patricio Garino, George Washington: Garino scored 27 points, shooting 11-for-16 from the field, in a 72-69 win at VCU.

Bryn Forbes, Michigan State: Forbes scored 29 points, shooting 8-for-10 from three, in the Spartans’ 16-point win at Michigan.

Jamal Murray, Kentucky: 35 points on 13-for-21 shooting and six rebounds in the Wildcats’ 80-61 win over Florida.

STRUGGLED

Kris Dunn, Providence: Dunn was the focal point of Villanova’s defensive efforts and it showed, as he scored 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting and had more turnovers (six) than assists (four) in the 72-60 defeat.

Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen, Florida: Chiozza and Allen combined to shoot 2-for-14 from the field, scoring six points in a 19-point loss at No. 20 Kentucky.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Who wants to be number one? A new team will likely take the top spot Monday, as No. 1 Oklahoma fell 80-69 at Kansas State. Wesley Iwundu led the way with 22 points, seven assists and some good defense on Buddy Hield. Hield scored 23 points but did so on 7-for-16 shooting as the Sooners had issues both offensively and defensively in Manhattan.
  • No. 6 Xavier scored 55 second half points, erasing a four-point halftime deficit to beat Marquette 90-82. Three Musketeers scored at least 20 points on the day, with Trevon Bluiett scoring 23 and Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura 20 apiece. Henry Ellenson led the Golden Eagles with 22 points and seven rebounds, with Haanif Cheatham adding 21 points.
  • No. 7 Kansas took care of business as expected in Fort Worth, beating TCU 75-56. Perry Ellis led the way with 23 points and ten rebounds, with Devonte’ Graham adding 15 points, and the Jayhawks did a far better job on the glass than they did against Kansas State midweek.
  • No. 8 Texas A&M lost for the third time in the last four games, this time falling at home to No. 25 South Carolina 81-78. Sindarius Thornwell finished with 25 points, six rebounds and nine assists and Michael Carrera added 20 for the Gamecocks, who shot 52.6 percent from the field.
  • Bryn Forbes hit seven first-half three pointers as No. 10 Michigan State took care of Michigan, 89-73. Forbes finished with 29 points and Denzel Valentine added 21, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Spartans.
  • No. 13 Iowa State, playing without the suspended Jameel McKay, rebounded from a slow start to beat Oklahoma State 64-59 in Stillwater. Georges Niang led a balanced scoring effort with 18 points while also grabbing nine rebounds.
  • No. 19 Louisville played its first game since announcing their self-imposed postseason ban, and without the injured Damion Lee (bruised knee) they took care of ACC cellar dweller Boston College 79-47. Trey Lewis scored 16 points and Deng Adel, who replaced Lee in the starting lineup, tallied 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
  • No. 20 Kentucky rebounded from its disappointing collapse at Tennessee with an 80-61 win over Florida in Lexington. Jamal Murray scored 20 of his 35 points in the first half and Tyler Ulis added 18 points and 11 assists.
  • No. 21 Wichita State had two streaks come to an end in its 58-53 loss at Illinois State: their 12-game win streak this season, and a 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games. Paris Lee scored 19 points and Deontae Hawkins added 14 for the Redbirds, who outscored Wichita State 22-9 from the foul line.
  • No. 23 Arizona became the third Pac-12 team to sweep a road trip in league play this season, winning 77-72 at Washington. The Wildcats, who join Oregon and Utah for the road sweep distinction, were led offensively by Ryan Anderson who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
  • No. 24 Dayton moved into a tie for first in the Atlantic 10 as they blew out George Mason, 98-64. Charles Cooke led five Flyers in double figures with 24 points to go along with four rebounds and five assists, and as a team Dayton shot 62.9 percent from the field.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • Memphis rebounded from a disappointing effort against UConn Thursday night, beating Cincinnati 63-59 at home. Shaq Goodwin and Dedric Lawson both posted lines of 20 points and 11 rebounds for the winners.
  • Temple avoided what would have been a damaging loss on the road, holding off UCF 62-60 in Orlando. Mark Williams scored 16 points off the bench and starter Quenton DeCosey added 15 for the Owls.
  • Florida State has now won four straight games, as they won 91-71 at Wake Forest. With the recent Louisville news, the Seminoles could be one bubble team that finds a way to benefit.
  • Stony Brook moved to 11-0 in America East play with a 91-73 win at UMass-Lowell. Jameel Warney finished with 24 points and 14 boards.
  • Duke beat NC State 88-80 in Durham, doing so after the Wolfpack mounted a rally to tie the game in the second half. Grayson Allen scored 28 points and Luke Kennard 26 for the Blue Devils, who welcomed head coach Mike Krzyzewski back to the sidelines after he missed their game at Georgia Tech due to illness.
  • San Diego State remained undefeated in Mountain West play (11-0) with a 78-71 overtime win over New Mexico. A Malik Pope three pointer in the final seconds of regulation forced overtime, and from there the Aztecs took control. Following the game, the conference admitted that the Lobos were victims of a botched call late in regulation.
  • North Dakota handed Weber State its second defeat in Big Sky play, beating the Wildcats 78-71. Geno Crandall led five North Dakota players in double figures with 21 points.
  • Valparaiso moved to 20-4 on the season with a 73-55 win at UIC. Bryce Drew’s Crusaders limited the Flames to 32-8 percent shooting on the day.
  • North Texas scored 50 second-half points, erasing a ten-point halftime deficit to beat Louisiana Tech 80-69. Deckie Johnson scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds for the Mean Green.
  • BYU suffered a loss that won’t help their NCAA tournament hopes, falling at home 77-72 to Pacific.
  • In Colorado State’s 76-67 win over Nevada, forward Emmanuel Omogbo grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.
  • Chattanooga moved to 10-1 in the SoCon with a 62-54 win over Furman. Matt McCall’s Mocs currently have a two-game lead on both Mercer and East Tennessee State.
  • Antonio Blakeney scored 31 points and grabbed seven rebounds off the bench and Keith Hornsby added 25 points as LSU beat Mississippi State 88-77. With Saturday’s results LSU is now in sole possession of first place in the SEC.
  • Wyoming shot an incredible 20-for-38 from three in their 84-65 win over Utah State. The Cowboys are the second team to make 20 three-pointers in a game this season, joining North Florida.
  • Speaking of the Ospreys, they were handed their second conference loss of the season by FGCU. The Eagles won 81-65, dropping UNF (7-2) into a tie for first in the Atlantic Sun with Jacksonville.
  • Seton Hall continued its march towards and NCAA tournament berth, beating Georgetown 69-61. Angel Delgado led the way with 19 points and 13 boards for Seton Hall, which won despite Isaiah Whitehead shooting 3-for-15.
  • Montana moved into first place in the Big Sky with an 82-80 win over Portland State. The Grizzlies are 9-2, with Weber State a half-game back at 8-2.
  • Hawai’i moved into a tie for first place in the Big West by winning 75-60 at Cal Poly. Eran Ganot’s Rainbow Warriors are now 7-1, and they host UC Irvine in a battle for sole possession of first place Thursday night.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: No. 6 Xavier hangs on, No. 17 Miami rebounds

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Illinois 110, Rutgers 101 (3OT)

Somehow a game matching two of the Big Ten’s worst teams produced 211 points and three overtime periods. The Fighting Illini picked up a much-needed win as Malcolm Hill tallied 34 points (7-for-19 FG), 14 rebounds and six assists with Jalen Coleman-Lands adding 26 points and Maverick Morgan 20. Corey Sanders, whose off-balance three forced a second overtime, finished with 39 points (14-for-33 FG), 12 rebounds and eight assists in a losing effort.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 17 Miami 79, Notre Dame 70: Jim Larrañaga’s Hurricanes rebounded from a disappointing effort at NC State Saturday with a win over the Fighting Irish in Coral Gables. Five players scored in double figures for Miami, with Anthony Lawrence (18 points) and Ja’Quan Newton (12) combining to score 30 points off the bench. As a team Miami shot 56.4 percent from the field, which helped make up for the fact that Notre Dame scored 46 points in the paint and rebounded 43.6 percent of its missed shots. Bonzie Colson scored 17 points off the bench to lead Notre Dame offensively.

No. 4 Maryland 70, Nebraska 65: It wasn’t pretty, but Maryland made the plays it needed to make late as they won in Lincoln. Maryland’s size advantage was key, as the Terrapins blocked 13 shots with freshman Diamond Stone responsible for eight of them. Stone, who also had 16 points and ten rebounds, fell two blocks short of his first triple-double, and Melo Trimble scored a team-high 20 points. Just as key for Maryland: Jared Nickens, who has struggled mightily in Big Ten play, scored 11 points and shot 4-for-7 from the field (3-for-6 3PT). He may be a role player, but Nickens’ ability to hit perimeter shots will be important for Maryland given their ability to get points in the paint.

BUBBLE BANTER: What should we make of the Atlantic 10?

STARRED

Malcolm Brodgon, Virginia: In a game in which many of the players struggled offensively, Brogdon scored 27 points (shooting 7-for-10 from the field) in the Cavaliers’ win over Boston College.

Jaylen Adams, St. Bonaventure: Adams got off to a slow start, but once he got rolling Saint Joseph’s had no answer for the sophomore guard. Adams scored 31 points and dished out seven assists in the Bonnies’ 83-73 win in Philadelphia.

Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall: 21 points, six rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and two steals in the Pirates’ 79-62 win over Marquette.

STRUGGLED

Eli Carter, Boston College: Virginia devoted much of its attention to the senior guard, resulting in Carter scoring seven points on 2-for-10 shooting.

Justin Edwards, Kansas State: Edwards scored two points in a loss at No. 7 Kansas, shooting 1-for-9 from the field.

Charles Callison and Que Johnson, Washington State: Callison and Johnson combined to shoot 5-for-25 from the field in Washington State’s loss to Arizona.

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • No. 3 Villanova retained possession of first place in the Big East, as they beat Creighton 83-58 at The Pavilion. Kris Jenkins scored 22 points and Jalen Brunson 16, as the Wildcats once again played without starting center Daniel Ochefu (concussion).
  • Jarrod Uthoff scored 14 points and Peter Jok and Anthony Clemmons added 12 apiece as No. 5 Iowa took care of Penn State, 73-49. The Hawkeyes are now 9-1 in Big Ten play, tied for first with No. 22 Indiana.
  • No. 6 Xavier had a tougher battle on its hands than many expected, but the Musketeers managed to beat St. John’s 90-83 in Cincinnati. Myles Davis led five Xavier players in double figures with 16 points, and Trevon Bluiett added 15 points along with 13 boards.
  • No. 7 Kansas took care of in-state rival Kansas State, beating the Wildcats 77-59 in Lawrence. Perry Ellis scored 19 points and Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk added ten apiece for the Jayhawks.
  • No. 9 Virginia picked up its fifth straight win, as they beat Boston College 61-47 in Charlottesville. Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 points and grabbed six boards, with 17 of those points coming in the first half.
  • No. 21 Wichita State won its 12th straight game, beating Southern Illinois 76-55. Shaquille Morris scored 13 points and Fred VanVleet finished with 12 points, 11 assists and five steals. Now 11-0 in conference play, the Shockers have a four-game lead with seven games remaining.
  • Ryan Anderson scored a career-high 31 points and grabbed 12 boards to lead No. 23 Arizona to a 79-64 win at Washington State. The Wildcats limited the Cougars to 34.9 percent shooting and scored 17 points off of 17 Washington State turnovers.

OTHER NOTABLE RESULTS

  • As mentioned above, Jaylen Adams produced 31 points and seven assists in St. Bonaventure’s win at Saint Joseph’s. Mark Schmidt’s Bonnies are now 6-3 in Atlantic 10 play, tied with George Washington for fourth place.
  • Florida avoided a major letdown after their win over West Virginia, beating Arkansas 87-83 in Gainesville. Dorian Finney-Smith led five Gators in double figures with 22 points while also grabbing nine rebounds.
  • VCU moved to 9-0 in A-10 play with an 88-70 win over La Salle in Philadelphia. Melvin Johnson, who’s closing in on the school’s career three-pointers mark, put up 30 points in the win.
  • Stony Brook moved to 9-0 in America East play with a 76-51 home win over Binghamton. Lucas Woodhouse scored 14 points and Jameel Warney 13 to go along with a team-high ten rebounds.
  • UNC Asheville remained in sole possession of first in the Big South, as they took care of Charleston Southern 63-55. The Bulldogs are now a game up in the loss column on High Point, Winthrop and Coastal Carolina, with High Point losing at home to Gardner-Webb 79-74.
  • American handed Bucknell its second loss in Patriot League play, beating the Bison 69-55 in the nation’s capital. Bucknell still holds a two-game lead atop the Patriot League at 9-2, with Navy in second at 7-4.
  • Seton Hall took care of business in a game they couldn’t afford to drop, beating Marquette 79-62 in Newark. Kevin Willard’s Pirates shot 50 percent from the field and 20 of their 29 made field goals were assisted.
  • UC Irvine picked up a 78-72 overtime win at Cal Poly to remain atop the Big West standings. Mamadou Ndiaye and Luke Nelson scored 21 points apiece for the Anteaters, who put together an impressive play to force overtime.
  • Dejoute Murray racked up 34 points, 11 rebounds and six assists before fouling out in overtime as Washington beat Arizona State 95-83 in Seattle. Due to foul trouble the Sun Devils finished the game with five available scholarship players.

No. 13 Virginia’s road struggles continue in loss at Florida State

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No. 13 Virginia has now played three road games in ACC play. Their record in those games: 0-3, with the most recent loss coming in Tallahassee Sunday night by the final score of 69-62.

Of course winning on the road is tough, especially in a league as deep as the ACC. But it’s been a familiar theme for the Cavaliers this season, and Sunday’s game turned on two important developments without just over four minutes of game time of each other.

The first play was Florida State guard Malik Beasley’s three-pointer at the end of the first half. Prior to that shot the freshman, who finished with 17 points, had yet to score a point in the game. The play served as a spark for Beasley, who’s scored in double figures in every game he’s played in this season. From that point on Beasley was able to get better looks, as he scored 14 second-half points and did not miss a shot from the field (4-for-4) or from the foul line (4-for-4) in the second stanza.

That seemed to spark Florida State as a whole, as they shot 63.2 percent from the field and avraged 1.33 points per possession. A key reason for that was the second major turning point in the game, as Anthony Gill headed to the bench with 15:47 remaining after picking up his third foul.

Virginia’s still a good defensive team by “normal” standards, but as it’s been discussed many times before they have yet to find a front court player capable of filling the role of last year’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year Darion Atkins. In 2014-15 Gill was effectively the “Robin” to Atkins’ “Batman” in the Virginia front court defensively, and that partnership was one of the reasons why they finished the season ranked tops in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.

With Atkins gone Gill’s become Batman, but no Robin has emerged for Tony Bennett. Hence the rotating of players such as Jack Salt (five starts), Mike Tobey (six starts) and Isaiah Wilkins (five starts) into the starting role, but none have managed to truly make that spot theirs from a defensive standpoint. That impacts pick and roll coverages, an area in which Atkins was elite a season ago, not only for the players in the action but those in weak side positions as well.

But that hasn’t been the only issue for Virginia, which has also made a habit of going cold offensively this season. The Cavaliers experienced two different stretches in the second half of three-plus minutes without a point, with Florida State outscoring them 17-0 during those points in the action. Virginia shot 35.7 percent from the field in the second half, and with the lack of consistency beyond Gill, London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon they can ill-afford an off night from one of their big three.

Brogdon scored ten points on 4-for-17 shooting and Perrantes needed 13 shots (making four) to score his 19 points. It’s become quite clear that Virginia will have a tougher time pulling out wins when that happens this season than they did in each of the last two seasons.

The good news for Virginia is that they’ve yet to play North Carolina, which is now three games ahead of the Cavaliers in the loss column, so there’s a direct opportunity to gain ground down the line (February 27 to be exact). But given the offensive lulls and a defense that, while good, isn’t at the level it reached in each of the last two seasons, their chances of winning a third straight ACC regular season crown are extremely slim at this point.