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Virginia rolls past Memphis

The SportsXchange

RALEIGH, N.C. - Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 with so much confidence that even center Mike Tobey is showing shooting range.

The top-seeded Cavaliers drubbed No. 8-seeded Memphis 78-60 on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament's East Regional third round at PNC Arena.

It was such a blowout that Tobey dialed up a 3-point basket.

"I just wanted to shoot a 3," he said.

It will be the first Sweet 16 appearance in 19 years for the Cavaliers, who received 16 points from guard Joe Harris.

Forward Anthony Gill supplied 13 points, Tobey added 11 points and guard Malcolm Brogdon and guard Justin Anderson had 10 points each.

"We knew we had to come out this game and establish ourselves," Brogdon said.

Virginia (30-6) goes on to face No. 4-seeded Michigan State (28-8) on Friday night at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Virginia saved the Atlantic Coast Conference from postseason misery, extending the league's consecutive seasons of putting at least one team in the Sweet 16 to 35 years. This came after weekend losses by Pittsburgh, Syracuse and North Carolina on top of defeats suffered by North Carolina State and Duke.

"It's an honor," Brogdon said. "To be the last one standing is huge. We're going to try to represent the conference well."

Virginia, which has lost only once in a two-month period, tied the school record for victories in a season. The Cavaliers last registered 30 wins in the 1981-82 season.

Forward Austin Nichols scored 15 points and guard Geron Johnson had 11 points for Memphis (24-10), which was trying to advance to Sweet 16 for first time since 2009.

But the Cavaliers, who were supported by an enthusiastic turnout from the neighboring state in an ACC venue, never gave the Tigers openings.

"Our fans are huge," Brogdon said. "To come out and see that orange and blue was exciting."

It will be a new setting when the Cavaliers reach the next round. Tobey is from Monroe, N.Y., and he will play at the Garden for the first time.

The Cavaliers had some near-flawless stretches that made coach Tony Bennett wonder if they could maintain the efficiency.

"We were able to make some shots and establish that lead," Bennett said. "Then, can we keep it up?"

Virginia was in position to post its most lopsided victory since a 31-point thrashing of North Carolina State in early January on the same court until reserves entered in the last three minutes.

The Cavaliers blew open the game in the second half with a stretch of 7-for-8 shooting from the field to create a 56-36 lead.

At one point, Virginia was threatening to post its best shooting game of the season (63.8 percent vs. Notre Dame). The Cavaliers ended up at 55.6 percent.

"They just attacked," Memphis guard Joe Jackson said. "They have some strong guards and they have a lot of weapons on offense."

By the time Tobey tossed in a 3-point shot with less than four minutes left, it was clear everything was going Virginia's way. Tobey had missed his previous two 3-point attempts this season.

Memphis coach Josh Pastner called it a solid season despite the disappointing conclusion.

"I want to thank our seniors," Pastner said. "I appreciate them so much. These guys helped the program stay above water."

Virginia led 35-20 at halftime, ending the half on a 16-2 run.

Included in the surge was Virginia's second 10-0 run in as many games. The Cavaliers produced at least one spurt of 10 or more consecutive points in 19 of their games this season.

Harris and guard London Perrantes drained 3-pointers during the latest such stretch. Perrantes is often overshadowed, but he connected on 21 of 31 shots from 3-point range in the nine games leading to Sunday night's clash.

Eight players scored in the first half for the Cavaliers.

Virginia, which entered the game ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense by allowing 55.4 points per game, held Memphis to 26.7 percent shooting in the first half.

"They helped each other out every possession and you could never get an easy basket," Jackson said.

NOTES: These teams had never met previously. Under coach Josh Pastner, the Tigers were 9-0 against teams they faced for the first time before Sunday. ... Virginia C Mike Tobey had six points in the first 12 minutes, similar to the early production he provided a week earlier in the ACC tournament final against Duke. He averages 6.3 points per game. ... Virginia improved to 5-0 in games under coach Tony Bennett at PNC Arena, which is North Carolina State's home court.
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