UVa. basketball holds off stubborn SMU, 76-73

Anthony Gill (High Point, N.C.) scored 19 points, including 17 in the second half, as Virginia defeated SMU 76-73 in the semifinals of the Corpus Christi Challenge Friday (Nov. 29) at American Bank Center. UVa. advances to the championship game tomorrow night against Missouri State or Texas A&M.

uva-logo-new2Joe Harris (Chelan, Wash.) added 15 points and Evan Nolte (Milton, Ga.) added a season-high 12 as the Cavaliers (6-1) extended their winning streak to five games. London Perrantes (Los Angeles) added a season-high nine points on a trio of 3-pointers and Akil Mitchell (Charlotte, N.C.) chipped in six points, nine rebounds and a key defensive stop with three seconds remaining to seal the win.

“We had to finish the game and win it,” Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. “That was important against a quality opponent like SMU. These are two teams that have aspirations to be good. Plays had to be made, we made some free throws and got a couple of key stops and that was the difference.”

Nic Moore tallied 17 points and Markus Kennedy had 14 for the Mustangs, who fell to 5-2.

SMU, coached by the legendary Larry Brown, was picked to finish sixth in the new American Athletic Conference in a preseason AAC coaches poll.

The Cavaliers made a season-high 10 3-pointers on 14 attempts. UVa went 20 of 44 overall from the floor and added a 26-of-36 effort from the charity stripe. Gill went 5-of-8 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the free throw line en route to 17 second-half points.

“Anthony was so hard for them to handle,” Bennett added. “He’s good when he turns and faces, and swoops and drives. He really made some plays for us.”

Harris hit a 3-pointer and another jumper as Virginia led 38-37 early in the second half. SMU regained a 46-39 lead, but the Cavaliers answered with an 8-0 run on a Gill 3-point play, layup by Mitchell, free throw from Harris and dunk by Justin Anderson (Montross, Va.).

SMU regained a 53-50 lead at the 9:26 mark, but Perrantes answered with his third 3-pointer and a pair of Gill free throws gave UVa a 56-53 lead.

The Mustangs cut the margin to 72-71, but Mitchell converted a reverse layup with one minute left to make it 74-71. Kennedy answered for SMU to make it 74-73 with 45 seconds remaining. Keith Frazier stole the ball from Malcolm Brogdon (Norcross, Ga.) with 11 seconds left, setting up Mitchell’s defensive heroics as the senior forced a traveling violation on Yanick Moreira with three seconds left. Harris iced the win with a pair of free throws to make the final score 76-73.

“You know we really played hard,” Gill said. “I felt like we really wanted this win and I just wanted to do everything I could to help us win the game.”

The game was tied 30-30 at the half. Virginia held an early 12-6 lead, highlighted by a pair of 3-pointers from Perrantes and one from Brogdon. After Perrantes headed to the bench with his second foul, SMU went on a 14-4 run to take a 20-16 lead. UVa regained a 22-20 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers from Harris and Nolte.  A pair of free throws and another 3-pointer from Nolte gave UVa a 28-26 lead. Nolte led the Cavaliers with eight points in the first half as the Cavaliers went 6-of-8 from 3-point range. SMU owned a decisive 19-12 advantage on the boards.

Game Notes: Gill’s previous career best was 18 points vs. Navy (11/19/13). Harris is 7-of-7 from 3-point range in his past two games. The last time UVa made 10 3-pointers was 12 at North Carolina (2/16/13). Perrantes went a season-best 3-of-3 from 3-point range after starting the year 2-for-12. UVa was outrebounded (33-29) for the first time this season.

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