Hoos Find A Way To Win At VT

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Virginia’s Mike Scott poured in 20 points as UVa topped Virginia Tech.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett likes for his players to embrace words like resilience and resolve. For one night in Blacksburg, the Hoos did more than just adopt those words. They clung to them with ferocity.

Already down to an eight-man scholarship rotation on the season, UVa lost two players to fouls and had a third limited with a foot injury while fending off a final Virginia Tech rally on Tuesday night, but the visiting Cavaliers survived to win 61-59. The 21st victory of the campaign ties the program’s most in a season since 1994-95.

“It was tough. As I said, we were leaking oil but we played well enough in the second half. Defensively, we tightened it up and got some stops and then made enough big plays to get that lead,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “Again with our turnovers and missed free throws, it got real close. We just had to hang on. … Our guys, they found a way and that’s what you’ve got to do on the road late in the season when there’s foul trouble and injuries. You’ve just got to hang on and squeak one out.”

For Virginia, finding a way to win this season usually relies on two main ingredients: Mike Scott and team defense. This contest proved no different.

Defensively, UVa (21-6, 8-5 ACC) held Tech (15-13, 4-9 ACC) without a made field goal for a stretch of 12:26 in the second half and with just one made basket in the final 13 minutes (Erick Green scored the host’s final two field goals at 13:02 and 0:38). After making 6 of 9 triples in the first half, the Hokies made only 2 of 7 after intermission.

Scott, meanwhile, was spectacular once again and the Hoos needed every ounce of his production. After being held to just 10 points – and more importantly just 9 field goal attempts – in a loss to VT at the John Paul Jones Arena, Virginia’s senior forward delivered a much bigger scoring punch on the road against the in-state rivals. Scott made 9 of 16 shots, including a 3-pointer, to finish with 20 points and 9 rebounds.

It’s the fifth time in ACC play that Scott has reached the 20-point barrier, giving him eight 20-point games on the season and 14 in his career. It’s the 14th straight time that he has posted double figures in the scoring column. He has taken over 19th place on Virginia’s career scoring list with 1,431, moving past Jim Connelly (1,426, 1965-67), Lee Raker (1,423, 1978-81) and Mel Kennedy (1,415, 1985-88).

“I think a lot of movement and moving around for me [helped and] my teammates setting up screens for me and getting me on the move so it was a little bit tougher to double team me,” Scott said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network when asked about the difference from the first meeting with the Hokies. “I think I had some turnovers in the first half when they did double team me, but they didn’t double team me in the second half [as much] so I took my time and tried to settle myself more in the post because I think I got a little bit too jump-shot happy in the second half.”

Three of Scott’s points on the night came during the most crucial point of the game for the Cavaliers. After falling behind 49-42 with 13:02 remaining, the Hoos dug their way out of the hole. In fact, the visitors blasted their way out of the deficit with a 17-2 run over the next 10:21 of action.

Sammy Zeglinski sparked the surge with a 3-pointer on the left wing and a steal-created layup sandwiched around a bucket from Jontel Evans . Scott followed with a traditional 3-point play on a post-repost play at 4:49 to make the lead 56-49. When Evans banked in a 3-pointer on an unreviewable shot clock situation (the replay showed that he didn’t get the ball off in time), Virginia led 59-51 with just 3:07 to go.

Tony Bennett’s team posted win No. 21 of the season.

“Some guys hit some 3’s, we got Mike some touches, and it was just a good variety. Jontel got to the rim and it was a nice mix,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. “If you look at the box score, three guys in double figures at 20, 13, and 13, that’s significant.”

Indeed, Zeglinski and Evans each finished with 13 points to support Scott’s offensive output. Zeglinski, who scored all of his points after halftime, made 5 of 9 shots (3 of 7 3-pointers) to go with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Evans added 5 assists and 1 steal to his line for the night as well.

Those two played central roles in a nerve-wracking final two minutes for the Hoos too. That’s because they both fouled out, forcing Virginia to turn to its third-string point guard and typical wing player Malcolm Brogdon even though he played just 13 total minutes with some sort of foot injury. Virginia Tech attacked Brogdon on defense and applied a fullcourt-press-and-foul strategy in the final 2:02 to cut the lead to 61-59, but the Hokies couldn’t pull off the comeback attempt as Brogdon made a steal and was fouled with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. A final rebound and heave fell short for VT.

With the foul trouble, Brogdon’s foot issue, and Joe Harris ‘ broken hand continuing to heal, freshman Paul Jesperson logged a career-high 28 minutes and produced a career-high 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting. With Harris and Brogdon scoring just 2 points each, Jesperson’s 7 points certainly came at an opportune time. Those points included the Cavaliers’ final two of the night when he rebounded a Scott miss and made the follow-up shot in the paint in the final 40 seconds. He had scored just 18 points in his career prior to Tuesday night’s game.

“We had two freshmen [out there] in the last couple of minutes after Sammy and Jontel fouled out so for Malcolm and Paul to stay composed on offense and especially defense was great for us,” Scott said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network.

Final Stats

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