That Anthony Gill crisis? Crisis averted: Gill is back

anthony gillAll that stuff about Virginia senior forward Anthony Gill being in a crisis? Two numbers for you: 15 and 9.

Gill put up 15 points and nine rebounds against arguably the best frontline in college basketball, and I only say that because of how many NBA scouts were in attendance taking notes anytime Brice Johnson, in particular, thought about looking at the ball, including the guy sitting beside me on press row.

And Gill’s defense: it wasn’t bad, either. He took his turns on Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, and Gill and frontcourt teammates Isaiah Wilkins, Mike Tobey and Jarred Reuter more than did their job defensively.

The Carolina bigs did hit 12 of their 19 shots from the floor, and while going 60 percent-plus from the floor is what the Heels expect from their post guys, they also expect more than the 25 points the three contributed (they’d been averaging 36.4 points per game collectively coming in).

They definitely expect more than the 16 rebounds they got from the group Saturday night: they averaged 21.3 boards per game coming in.

Virginia outscored UNC in the paint, 32-28, surprisingly drew even steven on offensive rebounds (13 apiece), and had a slight advantage in second-chance points (14-10).

Gill was key in all of the above respects: he had four offensive rebounds among his nine boards overall, and six of the team’s second-chance points.

Gill also started to look like his old self in the second half, getting the ball in the post, backing defenders down, powering to the basket, most noticeable on the play highlighted on SportsCenter all night long and into the morning, when he took on two Carolina defenders on a power move to the hoop that resulted in a lefty layup with 55 seconds left that extended the Cavs’ lead from six to eight.

This after a stretch that had seen Gill average just 8.8 points per game over his last five, on 41.3 percent shooting from the field.

He had seemed to be tentative in the post in the stretch, but he told reporters after the game that he never felt any issues with confidence.

“For some reason my shot wasn’t falling,” Gill said. “I just stay with it, and tonight was a case of my teammates continuing to trust me and Coach Bennett still putting me in those positions to score.”

Gill didn’t get on the scoreboard until the seven-minute mark of the first half, and he had a pedestrian four points on 2-of-4 shooting and three rebounds in the first half.

The second half was Gill’s. He had a team-high 11 in the final 20 minutes with six boards, and it was his muscular play that set the tone down the stretch.

It couldn’t have come at a better time for his team.

“You saw those guys and how long and athletic they are. He competed hard. He got on the glass a couple of times and made some plays. We needed it all,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said after the game.

“That’s what I like to see,” Bennett said. “At Miami, Malcolm was terrific, but we didn’t get as much balance in our scoring. Tonight, we had four guys in double figures and Isaiah had eight points. To beat a team of North Carolina’s caliber, you need to have that offensively. To see Anthony finish a couple of tough ones, it was the right time for us.”

Before this one, I told AFP sportswriter Scott German, the only person who I will admit knows more UVA basketball than I do, though there are undoubtedly many others, that if Gill gave Virginia 14 and 8 against UNC, the Cavs win, no matter what else happens.

Carolina hit 9-of-19 from three-point range, shot a shade under 50 percent from the field, but the ‘Hoos won because of, surprise, their presence in the paint.

That was Gill setting the tone.

Dude is back, if he was ever really gone.

– Column by Chris Graham