A No. 1 seed has never been knocked off by a No. 16 seed in the NCAA tournament. It wasn’t easy, but Virginia made sure it stayed that way.
The Cavaliers shot 65 percent (13-for-20, 6-for-10 from three) from the field in the second half to overcome a halftime deficit and knock off Coastal Carolina, 70-59.
Virginia had four players score in double-figures on the night, but it was sophomore forward Evan Nolte who came out of nowhere to knock down two clutch threes to increase UVA’s lead from three to nine with 7:12 to go – a lead the Chanticleers could not come back from. Nolte came into the ballgame averaging just 2.5 points in nine minutes per game, but he came up huge on Friday night with eight points in just 11 minutes.
Before Nolte’s heroics, the Chanticleers got off to a hot start that had Virginia on the ropes early. The CCU lead was as big as ten late in the first half, but the Cavaliers clawed their way back and cut the deficit to just five at halftime.
Virginia knocked down its first five shots of the second half and locked down defensively, but the Chanticleers managed to hang tough. The game was tied at 47 with 8:34 to go when UVA guard London Perrantes was fouled shooting a three. Perrantes hit all three free throw attempts, then Nolte hit his critical threes on back-to-back possessions to open up a nine point lead.
It was smooth sailing from then on out for Virginia with sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon, sophomore forward Anthony Gill and senior Joe Harris hitting shots down the stretch to seal the victory.
Gill led all scorers off the bench with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Brogdon added 14, while Perrantes and Harris scored 12 and 11 points respectively.
The 29-6 Cavaliers were the last team to a secure a number one seed for the NCAA tournament, and some scoffed at their resume, saying Virginia was not worthy of a top seed. Those people looked to be dead on early in the game, but Virginia showed what makes it dangerous in the second half – especially when Gill (five straight double-figure scoring efforts) continues to put up double figures off the bench.
Having a balanced scoring attack and coupling that with the country’s top scoring defense still makes the Cavaliers, who will face Memphis on Sunday night, a formidable opponent moving forward.
Check out more NCAA tournament coverage on Yahoo Sports: