Once a player who fans weren’t totally sure they’d see again, Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon rose up near the top of the key, just outside the three-point arc, and delivered a crushing blow to the Pittsburgh Panthers (18-4, 6-3 ACC) with four-tenths of a second left as the Cavaliers shocked Pitt 48-45 in a critical ACC college basketball game in Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon.
Brogdon, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Norcross, GA, missed the last part of the 2011-12 season due to injury, then was out for the entire 2012-13 campaign. With Joe Harris having a first-team All-ACC season in 2012-13, there wasn’t a ton of expectations on Brogdon upon his return this year, and it wasn’t totally known what he would contribute to this Virginia team.
Any questions about Brogdon, however, have been comprehensively answered in Virginia’s last five games, all victories. Since a four-point loss at Duke, Brogdon has sparked Virginia’s winning streak by at least 16 points in every game (82 total), to go with 28 rebounds and 20 assists. He’s turned into the Cavaliers’ most consistent offensive threat, and there’s not a head coach in the country who wouldn’t take Brogdon’s averages of 16.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and four assists per game over the last five games. Brogdon also has only seven total turnovers in those five games.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett showed trust in his newest star on Sunday’s final possession, as Brogdon got the call to take the final shot in a 45-45 game. Working off screens, Brogdon got open and drilled the three-pointer that gave the Cavaliers (17-5, 8-1 ACC) the lead for good. Brodgon’s offensive aggressiveness was also shown in the first half when he drove to the rim and dunked over Pittsburgh defenders Jamel Artis and Chris Jones.
Brogdon’s winning basket finished off a stellar week for Virginia, which had also won at Notre Dame on Tuesday night. The back-to-back wins over two of the ACC’s new schools have lifted the Cavaliers into second place by themselves in the conference, just a half-game behind unbeaten Syracuse. The Cavaliers and Orange meet March 1 in Charlottesville, but there’s plenty of basketball to play before then.
This means there’s many more opportunities for Brogdon to shine. His effort Sunday was made all the more impressive by the struggles of Harris, who missed the last several minutes of the first half due to foul trouble and was only 4-for-12 from the field (11 points). A question for the Cavaliers entering the season would be who would step up, with much of the defensive attention from opponents likely to go to Harris. Brogdon has been the man the last five games for Virginia, and his game-winning three-pointer on Sunday left no doubt about who will challenge Syracuse for the ACC regular season championship.