No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina came close to providing the biggest upset in Virginia history but ran out of gas in the second half, as the No. 1 seed Cavaliers won 70-59 Friday night in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
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No. 1 seeds are now a perfect 120-0 in the round of 64, per ESPN Stats and Info:
Virginia outscores Coastal Carolina 40-24 in 2nd half to advance to Round of 32. 1 seeds improve to 120-0 in the Round of 64— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 22, 2014
There was talk in the buildup to this game focusing on whether Virginia would be the first top seed to fall.
The fact that the Cavaliers play some of the slowest basketball in the country only opened the chance for the upset that much more. UVA's style didn't lend itself to building a huge lead quickly that would've sapped whatever belief the Chanticleers players had before the game.
USA Today's Dan Wolken observed that the difference athletically between the two teams wasn't that stark, either:
Just from a physical standpoint, Virginia-Coastal Carolina does not look like a typical 1-16 game— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 22, 2014
In short, this was the best chance, on paper, in the past few years of seeing a No. 1 seed go down in its first game of the tournament.
Coastal Carolina certainly gave Virginia it best punch. The Chanticleers went on a 17-4 run in the first half that saw them take a 31-21 lead with 4:25 to go.
Virginia offered a little more resistance as halftime crept closer, eventually closing the gap to five points, 35-30.
After the game, UVA head coach Tony Bennett admitted that things were getting a little heated in the locker room at halftime, per Sean Kennedy of The Virginian-Pilot:
Tony Bennett admitted "there was a little bit of bickering" going on at halftime. Interesting.— Sean Kennedy (@SeanDKennedy) March 22, 2014
The Cavaliers opened the second half with a 12-3 run to erase all of Coastal Carolina's first-half progress and take a 42-38 lead. Jumping ahead that early was huge for UVA. It allowed the Cavs to get into a comfort zone, where they could keep the pace slow without having to worry that time would run out on a comeback attempt.
The difference between Virginia in the first half and Virginia in the second half was huge.
The problems mostly stemmed from the defensive end of the floor, as Coastal Carolina shot 13-of-25 in the first, compared to 8-of-20 for the Cavaliers. UVA was also outrebounded 16 to 11. The Cavs didn't have a single offensive rebound.
In the second half, Virgina went 13-of-20 from the field, including 6-of-10 from three-point range. Coastal Carolina, on the other hand, was 8-of-24. The Chanticleers were outscored 40-24.
Andy Glockner properly summed up how things went after halftime:
When Virginia defends the crap out of you and shoots 108% from 3, they're tough.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 22, 2014
Tom Sorensen of The Charlotte Observer thinks that Virginia's style doesn't mean getting quick victories but beating teams slowly over time:
Like what Tony Bennett is doing at UVa. They don't destroy you but they beat you. Veteran and tough and exceptionally well coached.— Tom Sorensen (@tomsorensen) March 22, 2014
Bennett said after the game that the gap is closing between the mid-majors and major conference teams, per USA Today's Nicole Auerbach:
"The parity in college basketball, you can see it. I think it's in a lot of sports, it's starting to happen. In college basketball specifically, there's not a big separator. There really isn't. … As the years have progressed, I think you can only recruit so many good players. There's such talent out there and those other schools are doing a good job. So I definitely think the gap has shrunk and there's more parity."
Could a 16 beat a 1 soon?
"Yeah, that's a possibility for sure," he said.
Anthony Gill led the way for Virginia. He came off the bench to score 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Gill was one of four UVA players to score in double figures, compared to two for Coastal Carolina. Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris both struggled to find their shots, yet they combined for 25 points.
Badou Diagne and Warren Gillis combined for 27 points to try to propel the Chanticleers, but they got little support from their teammates.
Though they cruised in the second half, the Cavaliers, with their slow start, did not look like the favorite to win the East region:
Anyone impressed with Virginia tonight?— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) March 22, 2014
Michigan State and Iowa State both looked great in their wins. Many are predicting the Spartans to make the Final Four, and if Adreian Payne scores 41 points every game, that's exactly where they're going. The Cyclones shot 63.6 percent from the field against North Carolina Central, and their fast-paced attack would play the perfect foil for Virginia.
A win is a win, so you can't knock the Cavs too much. You knew they weren't going to blow Coastal Carolina away early and get up 20 points.
However, their sluggish start is a bit of a warning sign for the next round. They can't count on making that kind of second-half run against teams like Iowa State or Michigan State.
Virginia will play Memphis on Sunday in the third round. The Tigers beat George Washington 71-66 earlier in the day. The Cavaliers will need a much better performance two days from now if they want to make the Sweet 16.