Saturday’s ACC opener went the way third-ranked UVA and its legion of fans expected in the first 20 minutes. A business-like 51.9 percent shooting, a suffocating defensive effort that limited Miami to 20 first-half points, and an 18-point lead going into the break.
And then came the lesson: you’ve gotta play 40 minutes to win in the ACC.
Miami came out of the locker room on a 17-4 run that cut the lead to five, and it was a dogfight from there, to a point where to say that the Cavs should feel extremely fortunate to have escaped Coral Gables with the double-overtime win would be understating things quite a bit.
The ‘Canes took it to Virginia like no one has maybe since the road loss at Maryland in March. Point guard Angel Rodriguez got into the lane with impunity, scoring 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and when he wasn’t causing issues with his floaters, Rodriguez was either getting to the line (eight free-throw attempts) or spinning the ball to open three-point shooters (Miami was 6-for-12 from long range in the final 20 minutes).
UVA, meanwhile, was as out of sync offensively as you will ever see, going just 8-for-22 from the field (36.4 percent), getting zilch from first-team All-ACC performer Malcolm Brogdon (0-for-3 from the field in the second half before fouling out) and then proving unable to close out the game at the foul line (making just 4-of-9 from the stripe in the second half).
Credit to the Cavs for persevering, rallying from a four-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of the first OT to extend the game, then taking control in the second overtime before actually closing it out in the final minute, going 8-of-10 from the line to finally end the drama.
It’s nice to be able to escape one that you did everything you could to lose: fouling a three-point shooter up three with nine-tenths of a second to go, making just one shot from the field in an overtime period (a game-tying three by Justin Anderson with 12.1 seconds left).
That shouldn’t obscure the fact that Virginia won this one playing 25 good minutes and 25 god-awful minutes.
Tony Bennett will have no problem getting his team’s attention the next couple of days.
– Column by Chris Graham