Over the course of a long season, games start to feel like ones already played. For Virginia, the second-round NCAA Tournament game in Raleigh Saturday night with Butler felt like either of the Cavs’ two games with Clemson.
The role of Jaron Blossomgame was filled in this one by an unlikely suspect, Andrew Chabracsz, a 6’7” junior who averaged a modest 10.2 points per game and had connected on just 32.8 percent of his three-point shots on the season, and only attempted 61 from long-range in 31 games coming in.
Chrabacsz, naturally, had 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the first half, then scored 12 points in the first 3:28 of the second half, on 4-of-4 shooting, 3-of-3 from three.
The unconscious hot streak allowed Butler to withstand a torrid start to the second half from Virginia, which made 12 of its first 13 shots from the floor, and was still only up two with 8:38 left.
But a subtle move by UVA coach Tony Bennett that harkened back to the second Clemson game, maybe even the loss at Duke in February, made all the difference.
Bennett moved ACC defensive player of the year Malcolm Brogdon, a guard who had been checking Butler’s best penetrator, Roosevelt Jones, over onto Chrabacsz, and that was effectively it.
In the final 16:32, Chrabacsz scored one point, and was 0-for-2 from the floor.
In the loss at Duke, which also played out to a similar degree as this one did tonight, Brogdon held Ingram scoreless in the final 11 minutes after the ACC freshman of the year had gone off for 22 points in a sublime 9-for-10 stretch.
Virginia lost the game on the infamous Grayson Allen buzzer-beater, but the shutdown of Ingram by Brogdon allowed the Cavs to make it a game in the final minutes.
The ‘Hoos very would could have lost that March 1 game at Clemson without Brogdon holding Blossomgame in check down the stretch.
And most assuredly, without Brogdon clamping down on Chrabacsz Saturday night, Virginia is not headed to Chicago for the Sweet 16.
And, oh, by the way, Brogdon scored a team-high 22, 12 in the second half, as he was shutting down Chrabacsz.
All hail Malcolm Brogdon.
Story by Chris Graham