"If you don't make shots, it sucks the life out of you." — Josh Pastner (January 16, 2014)
The ACC-champion Virginia Cavaliers — and lots of missed shots — indeed sucked the life out of the Memphis Tigers' 2013-14 season tonight in Raleigh. When the Tigers' Michael Dixon hit a three-pointer to give the Tigers a 14-13 lead midway through the first half, there was a sense the 8th-seeded team in black might be able to trade punches with the East region's top seed. It was the last three-pointer Memphis would make in the first half (and one of only three they hit on 13 attempts for the game). UVA proceeded to outscore the Tigers 22-6 the rest of the half, which proved merely prelude to a second half devoid of the drama that makes the NCAA basketball tournament so compelling year after year.
Virginia won the game by 18 points despite taking five fewer shots than the Tigers. The Cavaliers shot 56 percent (30 for 54) compared with a horrid 41 percent (24 for 59) by Memphis. Virginia won the battle of the boards just as handily, with 40 rebounds to the Tigers' 28. Joe Harris led five Cavs in double figures with 16 points. Anthony Gill hit five of seven shots off the bench for 13 points, while ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon added 10 points and four assists.
Freshman forward Austin Nichols led the Tigers with 15 points. Senior guard Geron Johnson was the only other Memphis player with as many as ten (11). No Tiger had as many as seven rebounds or five assists.
The Tigers finish the season with a record of 24-10, the first campaign short of 25 wins in high school or college for departing senior Joe Jackson. Concluding a season with extraordinary highs (two wins over Louisville) and extraordinary lows (the AAC tournament, tonight), the loss will surely raise questions about Tiger coach Josh Pastner's ability to turn talent into success . . . at least success as measured by deeper runs in the Big Dance. Tonight's blowout happened exactly a year after a 22-point loss to Michigan State ended the Tigers' 2012-13 season.
Virginia improves to 30-6 on the season and will appear in its first Sweet 16 since 1995. UVA is the only team among six from the ACC to advance beyond the tournament's third round. The Cavaliers will face Michigan State next week in New York City.
Check back Monday morning for analysis of the Tigers' 2013-14 season.