Virginia’s Akil Mitchell tallied 16 points.
Boston College smothered Virginia’s leading scorer Joe Harris throughout Saturday’s game at the John Paul Jones Arena. While the strategy slowed down Harris, the Eagles didn’t have an answer for rest of the cast as the Cavaliers featured six players with at least six points to capture a 65-51 ACC win in Charlottesville.
Virginia has secured three straight conference victories to improve to 14-5 overall and 4-2 in the ACC this season. The win this afternoon is a good one for a young team that just wrapped a rivalry win at Virginia Tech late on Thursday night. The Cavs brought plenty of energy and concentration to the table to get the job done.
“They’re young, and we’re young too in some ways. I think a home crowd can do that for you. There was a lot of energy and passion,” UVa coach Tony Bennett said. “It’s physical, but it’s also mental, too. I was concerned about that with three days of prep, and the quick turnaround. That’s why [Friday] was a real brief practice, but we did compete. Now, we turnaround again, and play on Tuesday. We’ll have to be ready for that.”
The Eagles tried to shut down Harris and the Cavaliers’ recent 3-point shooting from the outset, pushing out to the arc while still trying to bother any post touches. The tactic worked during the first half as BC took a 26-24 lead to the locker room after holding the hosts to 38.5% shooting (10 of 26). Harris couldn’t find any clean looks, Akil Mitchell rushed a lot of early looks in the post, and other than one Paul Jesperson drive, the Wahoos weren’t finding ways to consistently pressure the defense near the rim.
That changed in the second half in a big way. The Hoos scorched the Eagles with 77.3% shooting (17 of 22) after halftime, the program’s best half since shooting 78.3% (18 of 23) after intermission against Georgia Tech in 1984.
What changed? UVa pressured the paint more consistently, frequently on drives from Justin Anderson or on post touches for Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey . That trio combined for 27 of team’s 41 points after intermission as a result. They were also a key part of a 14-3 run that broke a 28-28 tie early in the second half. Mitchell converted an old-fashioned three-point play that Anderson followed with a driving lay-up and a few moments later Tobey hit a turn-around jumper.
Justin Anderson scored in double figures for the second straight game.
Anderson finished with a career-high 16 points while scoring in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Mitchell matched those 16 points with his 14th double figure game of the season and Tobey added 8 points as well.
Virginia picked up other contributions as well. Evan Nolte put in 9 points despite foul trouble. Jesperson arguably logged the best statistical outing of his career as he chipped in 6 points with career-highs of 7 rebounds and 3 steals. He added 2 assists and 1 blocked shot for good measure.
Harris, meanwhile, still tallied 7 points despite the attention while matching his career-high with 3 blocked shots. With his 156th 3-pointer, he also moved into a ninth place tie on UVa’s all-time 3-pointers made list with Donald Hand and Todd Billet.
“They locked onto our shooters. You know, obviously, we’ve been shooting the ball pretty well behind the arc. So I took it upon myself to get into the paint and find the bigs,” said Jontel Evans , who posted 3 points and 6 assists. “When I was getting into the paint I noticed guys were stepping up and trying to challenge me, which made it easy for me to dump it off to my bigs. The post players had a heck of a game tonight.”
“We just wanted to get it inside [in the second half], period,” Mitchell said. “We were getting good looks in the first half, they just weren’t falling. We knew we had to get something going besides outside jump shots. Even the few shots I missed, they were good shots. ”
Once Virginia’s offense found a groove, it spelled trouble for Boston College. The Eagles couldn’t keep pace against the Cavaliers’ stingy defense, which held the visitors to 36.2% shooting for the game. That included a 7-of-22 outing from 3-point range (31.8%). BC actually placed three players in double figures as Ryan Anderson (14), Olivier Hanlan (10), and Joe Rahon (10) led the way, but there wasn’t enough depth or consistency to match UVa’s second-half surge.
“It was a combination of what they were doing and our poor shooting. They came out of the locker room determined to really guard us,” Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. “It got physical on the offensive end as well. I called a timeout early in the second half and tried to urge our guys to compete a little more physically. Virginia makes you play for the full 35 seconds on the shot clock as well as anyone in the country. We had to explore ways to share the ball and trust in each other, but we got out of sync on offense. The more disappointing part is that once things went bad on offense, we can’t let it affect us on the defensive end. But, we did that.”
And as the visitors quickly found out, if you don’t match Virginia’s purpose on the defensive end, it is a problem. After all, if the Cavaliers get to 60 points, that usually means curtains closed on your chances to win. The Hoos are 11-1 when scoring at least 60 points this season.