Virginia vs. Gardner-Webb score: No. 1 seed Cavaliers rally to survive a scare from another No. 16 seed
Virginia rallied from a 14-point deficit to pull away from Gardner-Webb and avoid another historic loss
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Facing a six-point halftime deficit, a hostile crowd and the potential of making history for the second straight season, No. 1 seed Virginia battled its way back to victory by imposing its will in the second half and defeating No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb 71-56.
Virginia opened the second half on a 22-5 run, erasing Gardner-Webb's lead and taking command of the game with its defense and its advantage inside against the Big South champions. After shooting nearly 50 percent from the field in the first half Gardner-Webb wasn't just missing shots in the second half, it couldn't even get good looks at the basket. Offensive and loose ball fouls started to add up with missed shots and soon those empty possessions deflated all of the energy that the Runnin' Bulldogs had rode in the first half.
Virginia's players appeared to take some pride in turning the tables on Gardner-Webb, visibly thriving at the disgruntled thousands that had made the trip here from Boiling Springs, North Carolina. The building was nearly 40 percent full with red and black and rocking in the first half, but the suffocating style of the Wahoos eliminated any chance of recapturing the energy that had an entire basketball nation tuning in on Friday afternoon to see if Virginia was really, in fact, about to lose to a No. 16 seed team for the second year in a row.
The Cavaliers' De'Andre Hunter scored 17 of his 23 points in the second half.
Tony Bennett talks often about the importance of wearing down the opponent, and how Virginia does take pride in imposing its will thought the course of a 40-minute game. It's not just the intensity of the pack-line defense, but also the patient approach on offense that makes teams dial in for long possessions on defense. The effort spent chasing Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome around the floor ends up being fuel that Gardner-Webb needed on the offensive end to climb into the game once Virginia took the lead. As UVA's lead increased, the possessions were longer and as the possessions were longer, Gardner-Webb started to wear down.
After becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed when Virginia lost to Maryland-Baltimore County a year ago, the assumption at one point in the game was that this kind of first-round loss was now going to be forever assigned to Bennett and the Virginia program. But the narrative flipped quickly, and in the second half of the 15-point victory we saw the reasons why so many fans have this Virginia team not only escaping the First round this year but making it all the way to the Final Four in Minneapolis.
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