Second round and done: Bitter end to another UVA basketball season
It was the worst time, obviously, for #2 seed UVA to play its worst game of the season. Virginia (30-4) trailed Michigan State 15-4 barely five minutes in, shot 26.7 percent in the first half, 29.8 percent for the game, and despite hanging around just never could get enough going either offensively or, surprisingly, on the defensive end.
Michigan State, the Newman to the Cavs’ Jerry, shot 42.5 percent, not exactly scorching the nets, but the Spartans did score 1.149 points per possession, the fifth time in the final seven games of the season that Virginia allowed an opponent to score more than a point per possession.
Sparty got to the foul line 33 times, and even in making only 20, the ability to get to the line was huge in a game with so little margin for error.
UVA got to the line 26 times on its end, making 18, but the stat that will confound fans the rest of the spring will be the 2-for-17 effort from three-point range, with one of the makes, from Malcolm Brogdon, coming after the final outcome had been decided in the final seconds.
It speaks to the will of the Virginia team that it played by far its worst game of the season on both ends of the floor against a solid Michigan State team and still was in the game in the final minute and lost by six.
It also says a lot about this team that the six-point loss was the biggest margin of defeat for Virginia, whose other three losses this year were two points to Louisville, four points to North Carolina and another six-point loss to Duke.
Of the four, this was the one that felt the most out of Virginia’s control.. Down five at the break, Virginia got two early buckets in the lane by Justin Anderson that cut the lead to 24-22, and it seemed like the ship was about to be righted.
Michigan State answered with a 13-3 run over the next 3:32 to go back up 12. As in the first half, the ‘Hoos chipped away, chipped away, chippe away, getting within 45-41 on an Anthony Gill free throw with 5:33 to go, but that was as close as it would get.
The loss to Duke came after the Blue Devils rallied in the final five minutes from a nine-point deficit with an otherworldly shooting effort that saw Duke hit five of its last six from three and score 22 points on its final eight possessions.
The loss to Louisville came when a kid who had made one shot from the field in the previous month hit a 16-foot jumper with two seconds left. The loss to UNC came with the Tar Heels shooting 54.8 percent from the field and still having to hold on in the final seconds.
Michigan State was the better team today in Charlotte. That’s what hurts the most. For a long stretch this season, Virginia had a reasonable claim on being the second-best team in the country and the team most likely to give undefeated Kentucky a good run for its money were the two to match up in March Madness.
That the season ends short of even the Sweet Sixteen is a bitter pill to swallow for a team whose ceiling was much, much higher.
– Column by Chris Graham
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