UVa senior Mike Scott posted another double-double.
There usually isn’t such a thing as a ‘must win’ game this early in the season, but with a bad loss to TCU and a weak non-conference schedule, Virginia really needed a win against Michigan for its NCAA Tournament resume. The Hoos got that important victory Tuesday night. Four Cavaliers scored in double figures and UVa knocked off the 14th-ranked Wolverines 70-58 in the in front of 10,564 fans at the John Paul Jones Arena.
“[The crowd noise] was ridiculous,” Virginia guard Jontel Evans said. “The fans brought a lot of energy. They gave us a lot of momentum to play even harder.”
Mike Scott recorded his 27th career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Joe Harris added 18 points while recording 7 rebounds and 4 steals. The statistical output from that pair is an expected part of UVa’s production early this season.
Malcolm Brogdon ‘s performance on the other hand was the big story in Virginia’s upset victory. The freshman scored in double figures for the first time with a career-high 16 points by shooting 5 of 7 from the field. That included a 3-4 night from beyond the arc.
“He’s a complete player,” Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said. “He’s mature beyond his years and it was good to see him give us a lift.”
Brogdon played 24 minutes for the Hoos. When Michigan began to mount a comeback late in the second half, Brogdon connected from the 3-point line to kill the Wolverine rally and stretch the lead back to double digits.
“That means a lot to come into a program where guys – especially the seniors – will trust you as a freshman,” Brogdon said.
Brogdon’s shooting was part of a second-half heat wave for the Virginia offense, which was inept for the majority of the first half. The Cavs only scored 14 points in the first 17 minutes even with Michigan star Tim Hardaway Jr. on the bench with foul trouble. A late 10-4 surge gave UVa a one-point lead at the break.
The Cavaliers effectively attacked the visitors’ 1-3-1 zone in the second half through high-low ball screens. The Wolverines used a four guard line-up for much of the second half and Scott was often guarded by Hardaway or Zack Novak. Both of those players are four inches shorter than the Virginia senior.
“I feel it’s disrespectful to put a guard against me,” Scott said. “I just had to take advantage of what was given to me.”
Scott did exactly that. He took advantage of openings to reach his 18 points, but he also set up teammates. With Scott double-teamed often in the post, Virginia’s army of shooters gained many open looks as a result. The UVa offense exploded with a 19-2 run midway through the half to build a double-digit lead. After only shooting 30.4% in the first half, Virginia shot 50% in the second and doubled its point total in the process.
“We didn’t shoot very well in the first half,” said guard Sammy Zeglinski, who had 11 points and 6 assists. “Our identity was defense and it kept us in the game. Eventually our shots started to fall and we were able to wear them down in the second half.”
Part of the catalyst for that defensive identity came in the form of Jontel Evans , who was given the tough task of defending Trey Burke. Burke came into the contest averaging 11 points per contest and has scored in double digits in all but one of Michigan’s games. Burke scored 11 points, but also turned the ball over three times. He found it difficult to find driving lanes against Evans and the UVa Pack-Line defense.
Assane Sene and the Virginia defense held another opponent to less than 60 points.
Evans’ effort helped UVa hold another opponent to less than 60 points – in its 6-1 start, none of the seven opponents have hit the 60 plateau. Virginia held the Wolverines to 44% percent shooting.
“I knew he was tough to guard,” said Evans, who played 29 minutes and turned in 7 points and 4 assists. “When he gets into the paint he makes his team so much better. The focus was to stay in front of him and keep him out of the paint and I think I did a good job of that.”
Novak led the Wolverines with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Burke and Evan Smotrycz were each in double figures as well; Burke had 11 and Smotrycz had 10.
In other statistical notes, Virginia also outrebounded the Wolverines 36-26 on the night, including an 8-2 advantage on offensive rebounds. Free throws were another advantage for Virginia. The Cavaliers shot 17 of 22 from the line, highlighted by Harris going 5-5. The Wolverines struggled to get to the line, only attempting 7 free throws.
“When they shoot a lot threes and are playing four guards, you should be able to get some offensive rebounds and also control the defensive glass,” Bennett said.
The win marked the third victory in a row for the Cavaliers. Virginia will battle in-state foe Longwood on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at the JPJ.