#8 UVA basketball escapes LaSalle, 64-56

uva basketballEighth-ranked UVA led fellow unbeaten LaSalle by 20 with 13 minutes left. Then the Cavs had to sweat out the victory in the final minutes.

The Explorers got to within four points with two minutes to go before Virginia pulled away late for a 64-56 win in the first round of the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn Friday night.

The first 27 minutes went according to script for UVA (6-0), which led 37-19 at the half and 48-28 with 13:16 left, and it seemed like the ‘Hoos would put this one on cruise control. But LaSalle (4-1) started chipping away, going on an 11-1 run to cut the margin to 10 at 49-39 by the 7:55 mark, and the game tightened from there.

“We missed a couple layups, started fouling, and lost our composure with a technical foul,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “When they got in foul trouble they went with four guards, and we started standing around. That was the first team that has done that to us. We exploited it a little bit, but then we had trouble.”

Bennett looked ready to call a timeout to try to quell the first run that cut the margin in half, but didn’t, then later did try to get his team’s attention.

“Maybe we just got tight,” Bennett said. “It’s early in the season, and we’ve got to figure this stuff out.”

The dominating first half that saw Virginia go into the locker room up 18 saw the Cavs shoot 58.3 percent from the field, hold LaSalle to 39.1 percent shooting and force nine Explorers turnovers.

It was going so smoothly that it seemed that Bennett would be able to clear the bench to rest his rotation for the short turnaround for Saturday night’s title game against Rutgers, but with the game tightening that didn’t happen. All five Virginia starters played at least 28 minutes, with Malcolm Brogdon (37), London Perrantes (36) and Anthony Gill (34) going the bulk of the way.

Brogdon led UVA with 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and 8-of-9 shooting from the free-throw line. Gill had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Virginia, which finished 47.8 percent from the field (22-of-46) and outrebounded LaSalle by a 35-23 margin.

The Explorers got 20 points from Jordan Price, and shot 40 percent from the field (18-of-45).

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

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