Much has been made this season about how the Virginia Cavaliers have won all but one of their ACC games entering Monday night’s home game against the Maryland Terrapins. But much has also been said about how the Cavaliers have been dominating opponents. Virginia has been regularly getting leads of 20 or more points against its conference rivals on the way to a 10-1 mark in the league and 19-5 overall. Only one of Virginia’s conference wins entering Monday’s night rivalry game had been by less than 12 points.
With postseason play now about a month away when you think about the ACC Tournament, Virginia’s gaudy margin of victory of numbers were sure to raise questions about how the Cavaliers would respond in a close game against an opponent it was supposed to beat. Virginia’s 48-45 win at Pittsburgh last week probably doesn’t fit into that category, because the Cavaliers could have been forgiven for losing to the Panthers on their home floor, a place very few teams come in and find success in this or any other college basketball season.
But playing at home against a mid-table ACC team in Maryland Monday night, Virginia found the type of response to silence any critics for a while. Down 26-25 at the half, Virginia held a 54-48 lead with 2:17 to go after a three-pointer by Maryland’s Nick Faust. From there, the Cavaliers outscored the Terrapins 7-2 to boost the lead to 11. Only a meaningless Seth Allen three-pointer with 10 seconds left kept Virginia from winning by double figures yet again with Allen draining his basket amid crowd chants of “A-C-C” as a serenade to the Terps on their way to the Big 10 next season.
Allen’s late three-pointer was also his only successful outside shot of the game. Virginia held him to 1-for-7 from behind the arc after Allen had gone 7-for-10 in Saturday’s win over Florida State. That type of defense has been a trademark of the Cavaliers for years. But what hasn’t been a trademark of the 2013-14 Virginia club has been good free-throw shooting. Yet, in the final 63 seconds, the Cavaliers went 7-for-8 from the line, including 3-of-4 by senior Joe Harris, who led UVA with 19 points. Justin Anderson and Malcolm Brogdon each went 2-for-2 from the line in the final minute. In the first 38:57 of the game, Virginia was 2-for-8 from the line.
The shutdown defense late and the successful trips to the free-throw line answer some of the few questions that may have been remaining about the Cavaliers for the last part of the season. Now 20-5 overall and 11-1 in the ACC, Virginia turns its attention to a game at Clemson at noon on Saturday. No. 17 Virginia has won eight games in a row.