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Virginia staves off upset bid from Belmont

Mar 20, 2015 - 11:07 PM Charlotte, NC ( - Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points and second-seeded Virginia survived a challenge from upset-minded Belmont to record a 79-67 victory in an NCAA Tournament East Region second round tilt.

The 15th-seeded Bruins pared a 14-point second-half deficit down to two when Craig Bradshaw's 3-pointer brought them within 62-60 with 4:37 remaining. However, the Cavaliers' trademark strong defense resurfaced down the stretch as Virginia countered with a 9-0 run that kept their underdog opponent at bay.

Anthony Gill added 16 points for Virginia (30-3) and Justin Anderson got back in the swing to help the Cavs earn a rematch with Michigan State in Sunday's Round of 32. The Spartans ended UVa's 2013-14 season with a 61-59 decision in last year's East Regional semifinals.

Anderson, who missed the Cavaliers' final eight regular-season games with a broken finger and appendectomy and did not score in limited action during the ACC Tournament, hit 4-of-6 shots in a 15-point effort that helped Virginia advance.

"I don't think he ever lost confidence, but to see him get his flow back and rhythm back was great for us and great for him, too," Gill said of Anderson.

Bradshaw allowed Ohio Valley Tournament champion Belmont (22-11) to hang around until the final minutes by depositing 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

"I felt good about how I was shooting," Bradshaw said. "We were running a good offense and they just made some good stops at the end, made more winning plays in the end."

Plagued by scoring droughts that played a part in late-season losses to Louisville and North Carolina, Virginia endured another one after building a seemingly comfortable 51-37 lead five minutes into the second half.

The Cavaliers didn't register a point for a nearly five-minute stretch, enabling Belmont to get back in it with an 11-0 flurry that trimmed the margin to three with 11:15 to play.

With Bradshaw leading the charge, the pesky Bruins didn't allow Virginia to pull away until the late stages. The sharp-shooting guard buried a trey that kept it a 3-point game with 5:17 left, then answered two Gill free throws with another to bring Belmont within 62-60.

"You just don't see a lot of teams that can spread the floor like that, that can shoot the ball and have the kind of guys that just keep coming at you, that can even bank 3s where they're going the way Bradshaw did," Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett remarked.

The Cavs then clamped down on the defensive end, forcing Belmont into four straight empty possessions. Gill's finger-roll off a London Perrantes feed while being fouled proved to be the dagger, and he hit the ensuing free throw for a 69-60 advantage with 1:53 left.

"(Defense) is what we lean on every night, that's our foundation," said Brogdon. "So to be able to lean on that at the end of the game is what we do best."

Brogdon followed with a pair of successful makes from the line following a long-range miss from the Bruins' Evan Bradds, lengthening UVa's lead to 11 with 1:32 remaining.

Belmont, one of the nation's top shooting teams, looked like potential bracket busters early on, making seven of its first 10 field goal attempts while speeding out to an 18-12 edge just over six minutes in. Belmont hit a trio of 3-pointers during that surge, including back-to-back ones from Bradshaw and Nick Smith that capped a 9-2 run.

Virginia then held the Bruins scoreless for over five minutes while getting a lift from Anderson that helped reverse momentum.

The All-America candidate buried a trey -- his first basket since Feb. 7 -- to ignite an 18-2 tear in which he and Marial Shayok later converted 3-point plays off Belmont turnovers to ultimately stake the Cavaliers to a 30-20 advantage with 7:47 left in the opening period.

Brogdon's fourth triple of the half had Virginia up 40-29 inside of two minutes before the Bruins' Reece Chamberlain hit from long range to pull the Bruins within eight at the break.

The Cavaliers' lead was just seven when a Perrantes 3-pointer and Anderson's layup started a 7-0 spurt that increased the lead to 51-37 with 15 minutes left.

Game Notes

Belmont fell to 0-7 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, with six of those defeats by 12 or more points. The Bruins did put a scare into another ACC member as a No. 15 seed back in 2008, however, giving Duke all it could handle in a 71-70 loss ... Virginia's 30 victories tied a school season record set in 1981-82 and matched last season ... Bruins guard Taylor Barnette, who hit the game-winning 3-point shot against Murray State in the OVC championship game, spent his freshman season at Virginia and averaged 2.6 points in 26 games for the Cavs in 2012-13. He went just 1-of-7 from 3-point range in a seven-point effort against his former school ... Belmont is one of just two Division I men's basketball programs to earn an automatic NCAA bid in seven of the last 10 years, along with Gonzaga ... The Cavaliers improved to 62-4 under head coach Tony Bennett when scoring 70 or more points.