UVa. outwills Memphis, turns attention to Michigan State, Sweet 16

memphisuva-logo-new2Michael Dixon Jr. picked up a Justin Anderson turnover and flung the ball ahead to Chris Crawford, who had an open look at a three-pointer from the left wing. Memphis was up one on top seed UVa., at 16-15, with nine minutes left in the first half. A three would push the lead to four, and push the pace the way the Tigers had come into the game wanting to do.

The last thing Memphis wanted was to let UVa. continue to control tempo the way the ‘Hoos had to that point.

The jumper missed. A Mike Tobey jumper on the other end gave Virginia a 17-16 lead. Memphis would never lead again, as Virginia closed out the last nine minutes of the first half on a 21-4 scoring run en route to posting a 78-60 win in the 2014 NCAA Tournament third round.

The difference: execution.

“I think we just started executing,” sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon said. “We started breaking the press and getting stops. We did a good job tonight. We packed it in and frustrated them.”

Memphis (24-10), which defeated defending national champion Louisville twice this season, was frustrated as all getup in the first half, shooting just 8-of-30 from the field to head into the locker room down 15, 35-20.

“They’re a great defensive team overall, man. They’re just probably — they’ve got to be the best defensive team I’ve ever played against in college,” Memphis coach Josh Pastner said. “The way they see the ball, never lose sight of the basketball. They help each other out every possession. You will never get an easy layup on them.”

What Pastner was saying there is Virginia (30-6), as it did so many times this season, simply wore out its opponent.

“The thing we kept saying was just wall ball.  We’re going to play wall ball today,” UVa. coach Tony Bennett said. “Build a wall wherever the ball is.  Build a wall.  Because we had to do that, the way they would try to knife you.  I thought we struggled early.  I thought their speed down the floor, we weren’t sharp early.  They got some transition buckets.  We were a little out of sync. But once we adjusted and really got back and really set our defense, then we became much more effective.”

Memphis was never able to get closer than 13 in the second half, which saw the Cavs build a lead as big as 26 before Bennett emptied his bench in the final three minutes.

The focus of a delirious fan base on hand for the game at the PNC Center in Raleigh, N.C., on the home floor of ACC rival NC State, down the stretch was on Madison Square Garden and the Sweet 16 matchup with #4 seed Michigan State (28-8), a team that a number of prognosticators, and even President Obama, going all the way.

Before Sparty can get to North Texas, though, it will have to break down that wall that Bennett’s team builds each trip down the floor.

“Madison Square Garden, to get there certainly and to play on the Sweet 16, we talk about that.  You get to the Sweet 16, that’s the rarified air of college basketball, and you’re going to have to play,” Bennett said. “We know who’s waiting.  We know how good they are.  It will be us trying to test our game against one of the teams that’s playing their best basketball right now.”

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