GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers hope to take the next step in their NCAA Tournament run when they battle the eighth-seeded Memphis Tigers at PNC Arena on Sunday night.
Virginia trailed 35-30 at halftime against 16th-seed Coastal Carolina on Friday, but dominated over the final 20 minutes to avoid the upset with a 70-59 victory. The victory puts Virginia (29-6) one win away from matching a school record for wins in a season. The only other time the Cavaliers won 30 games was during the 1981-82 campaign, when they were upset as a No. 1 seed by UAB in the Sweet 16.
Memphis is hoping to be the team pulling off an upset on Sunday, after holding off George Washington (71-66) on Friday to advance. Unfortunately, they have not won consecutive games since defeating Rutgers and Temple in back-to-back contests on Feb. 20 and Feb. 22.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these programs, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16.
Memphis never trailed against George Washington, but it had its lead trimmed to 67-66 with 25 seconds to play on a layup by the Colonials' Joe McDonald. The Tigers wre able to fend off the rally, however, with Michael Dixon Jr. going 4-of-4 from the free-throw line, while the team played solid defense to force an errant 3-point attempt from Maurice Creek in the final seconds.
Dixon Jr. (12 ppg) is normally a secondary scorer for the Tigers, making his presence felt as a reserve. He still came off the bench on Friday, but he was the key offensive performer in the contest, netting a team-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Joe Jackson (14.3 ppg, 4.6 apg) is the usually go-to option, leading the team in both scoring and assists. Jackson was still leaned on heavily against GW, tallying 15 points on 6-of-12 from the floor, while contributing six assists and five rebounds as well. Shaq Goodwin (11.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field to finish with eight points, while Chris Crawford (8.9 ppg) struggled to find his shot, netting just 3- of-10 from beyond the arc.
It was a tale of two halves for the Cavaliers on Friday. After managing only eight field goals in the opening stanza, Virginia nearly matched that total in 3-pointers alone in the second when it nailed 65 percent from the floor, including 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. Anthony Gill came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
The Cavaliers looked more like themselves defensively in the second frame against Coastal Carolina, holding the Chanticleers to 32 percent shooting in the period. Virginia normally dominates at the defensive end, as it leads the nation in scoring defense (55.4 ppg), while ranking among the top-15 in assists allowed (9.8 apg) and opponent field goal percentage (.386). They can't afford to fall behind like they did on Friday going forward, however, with their offensive pace (66.1 ppg) not lending itself to an ability to overcome large deficits. Malcolm Brogdon (12.7 ppg) and Joe Harris (11.7 ppg) are the only double-digit scorers on the roster. The duo combined for 25 points on just 5-of-16 shooting against Coastal Carolina.
Virginia has a real challenge against Memphis, a team that is among the nation's best in scoring (77.4 ppg), assists (17.4 apg) and field goal percentage (.479). If the Cavaliers fall behind early, they may struggle to recover. However, they should be able to take control from the beginning and pick up what will likely be a hard-fought win.
Game Date and Time