Mike Scott, Virginia Destroy Terrapins

Mike Scott led all scorers with 25 to go with seven rebounds.

After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season and three of its last four outings, the Virginia men’s basketball team found a cure to its ills Saturday: turtle soup with a dash of hot shooting for flavor.

The Cavaliers sapped Maryland’s energy in the second half with suffocating defense and added 48.1% shooting on the afternoon to win easily, 71-44. No one was hotter than Cav senior Mike Scott, who made 10 of 20 shots and 5 of 5 free throws to post an ACC career-high of 25 points. Scott has reached double figures in 13 straight contests, the longest stretch of his career.

Virginia, meanwhile, has 20 victories in a season for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

“It’s exciting. I’ve had some ups and downs throughout my career so to get 20 wins in a season is definitely a milestone for me and Mike, who’ve been through some tough times,” Wahoo senior Sammy Zeglinski said. “So it’s exciting, but we’ve got another quick turnaround so we can’t really think about it too much. We’ve got Virginia Tech on Tuesday.”

“We prepared hard. We knew we’d have to ratchet it up or turn up the volume in terms of the intensity from start to finish. There wasn’t an option,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “We knew that being at home, we’d have the energy of the crowd. They were really terrific. They got behind us and I think the guys fed off of that but they were really committed. We had two physical practices leading up to this. There was a little bit of time to prepare and we got after it as hard as we could.”

With the game knotted in a 31-31 score at halftime, Virginia (20-6, 7-5 ACC) needed that preparation and intensity to carry through and it did as the Hoos travelled a familiar path to their 20th win. The defensive path. The Cavaliers held the Terps (15-11, 5-7 ACC) to just 13 points in the second half – that tied a John Paul Jones Arena record low for a half – and added Maryland to the under-50 club in ACC play. Georgia Tech (38), Virginia Tech (47), Boston College (49), Wake Forest (44), and Maryland (44) all have fallen short of the 50-point plateau in ACC play. For the season, 11 opponents have come up short of 50 points.

The Hoos forced the Terrapins into 5-of-24 shooting in the second half, a frigid 20.8% from the floor. The visitors also committed 12 second-half turnovers against the Pack-Line defense. No Terp was more affected that Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer coming into the game at 21.7 points per game. Stoglin finished with 14 points, but all of those came in the first half. He missed all 7 shot attempts in the second half and made 4 of 17 shots in the game.

Virginia threw a potent defensive cocktail at Stoglin to keep him under wraps. Zeglinski started out on Stoglin and gave him some troubles in the early part of the game before the Maryland guard got hot late in the first half. Stoglin drained a trio of 3-pointers in 1:27 to push the Terps to a 26-24 lead at the 3:43 mark of the first half. So coming out of the media timeout at 3:29, UVa broke from its traditional Pack-Line defense and put Jontel Evans on Stoglin in a faceguard role. The mission: deny him the ball and follow him everywhere.

The fire blanket technique cooled Stoglin off and when Evans went to the bench early in the second half with three fouls, UVa freshman Malcolm Brogdon kept him in the freezer. Brogdon’s physical and long frame at 6’5″, 215 pounds added more frustration for the 6’1″, 185-pound Stoglin.

“He hit those four threes. He can score in bunches really quickly but we wanted to make him earn it. With great scorers, you have to make them earn it. You can’t give them easy ones, and I don’t think he had any easy ones tonight,” Bennett said. “On the ones that he made, he had a hand in his face or on the ball. We tried to also make him guard us a little bit and expend a lot of energy. When there’s a battle of wills, you have to be able to wear guys down on both ends of the floor.”

“It was a group effort. In the first half, he got hot in that stretch and made three quick threes in a row, all contested, so we were going to live with that. We definitely went to a four-man pack with Jontel denying him the ball and making him work a little more,” Zeglinski said. “It definitely worked on him. In the second half, we just kept making him work. We knew they weren’t going to be able to keep up that shooting display they did in the first half if we kept wearing them down. Fortunately for us those shots didn’t go in the second half and it worked out for us.”

Brogdon proved to be a big story on the day overall. In addition to his defensive effort on Stoglin after halftime, he also had another solid day on the offensive end. Brogdon made 5 of 6 shots, including both of his 3-point attempts, and 2 of 2 free throws to finish with 14 points. He added 1 assist with 0 turnovers to go with 3 rebounds and 1 steal.

Brogdon appears to be finding his stride when many freshmen hit the proverbial late-season wall. In three of the last four games, he’s scored at least 9 points. In the last home game against Wake Forest, he made 4 of 5 shots, including 2 of 3 triples, for 10 points. On the road at Clemson, he knocked down 4 of 8 attempts, but just 1 of 4 treys, for 9 points. Take out the North Carolina game when the whole team struggled to make shots and Brogdon made 13 of 19 shots in the other three contests.

“I hear people say that freshmen hit a wall later in the season, which is right now,” Brogdon said. “I just try to keep my head up, keep my confidence up, and keep playing good basketball with the guys around me.”

Malcolm Brogdon scored 14 points, including this dunk in the first half.

“He’s shooting the ball well and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. On the defensive end, he did a good job on Stoglin when he was matched up on him. He had a complete game tonight,” Zeglinski said. “He shot the ball well. He’s going to continue to do that, and it’s good for us to have him out there as a freshman being so confident.”

If Brogdon’s emergence holds steady, that could be a big development for this UVa team as it tries to make a run at an NCAA Tournament bid. After all, Zeglinski found a way to score 11 points Saturday as well and Joe Harris , who played his second game with a broken bone in his non-shooting left hand, added 6 points too. Evans finished with just 4 points this time out, but he had 10, 12, and 17 in the three games prior to the Maryland contest.

In other words, the weapons surrounding Scott, who has been outstanding in his senior season, appear to be finding some individual light in what had become an increasingly dark tunnel on offense. If those flashes somehow combine in the season’s final weeks, Virginia could be a tough out in tournament play.

Of course, next up is Virginia Tech, the rival that swiped a 47-45 win in Charlottesville last month. In that game, the Hoos hit just 32.6% of their shots and 14 of 22 free throws. In other words, a motivated group of Hokies could try to extinguish the flickering hopes of a late-season surge from Virginia. The Cavaliers, of course, helped spoil VT’s NCAA Tournament hopes last season so there could be added motivation for Tech on Tuesday too.

“We’re just going to bring everything we’ve got. We know how important the game is,” Zeglinski said. “It’s going to be a tough environment to play, but I think my teammates, we’re all excited to go in there and get it done. We’re looking forward to it definitely.”

Final Stats