Virginia freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon hobbled out of Cassell Coliseum following the Cavaliers’ 61-59 win Tuesday night at Virginia Tech with his injured left foot in a walking boot. He said he does not expect the injury – which is to the top of his foot near the ankle – to hinder him for the rest of the season, though he acknowledged the pain has gotten increasingly worse in the past few days.
When asked to describe the discomfort through which he played 13 minutes off the bench, Brogdon said it was “just a really bad throbbing pain. It just hurts every time I step on it or push off of it. That’s about it.”
Between Brogdon’s foot injury and sophomore guard Joe Harris’s broken left (non-shooting) hand, the Cavaliers are down to just three fully healthy back-court players as they prepare to host No. 7 North Carolina on Saturday.
Brogdon entered the night as Virginia’s top option off the bench. He had been averaging 7.1 points in 24.6 minutes per game in conference play. With Brogdon limited, freshman guard Paul Jesperson logged a career-high 28 minutes Tuesday. Jesperson’s previous career high had been the 17 minutes he played during Virginia’s 71-44 win Saturday against Maryland.
The team’s plan had been not to play Brogdon at all in the second half Tuesday unless Virginia got into foul trouble. Considering no Cavalier had fouled out of a game the entire season entering the night, that seemed like a safe plan.
Then junior guard Jontel Evans and fifth-year senior guard Sammy Zeglinski fouled out within 30 seconds of each other, the latter coming with 92 seconds remaining in the game. So Brogdon – who spent most of the second half standing at the end of Virginia’s bench to keep his foot warm and loose, just in case – checked back in.
On Virginia Tech’s final possession, Brogdon intercepted a pass from Virginia Tech forward Dorian Finney-Smith that was intended for Hokies guard Dorenzo Hudson. Brogdon immediately was fouled with 1.9 seconds left on the game clock. He missed the ensuing one-and-one free throw, but Virginia Tech’s final desperation heave fell well short.
“Our scouting report said that No. 5, Hudson, wanted to take the big shot,” Brogdon said. “And I knew they knew I was hurt . . . so they were going to go at whoever I was guarding. I knew they were trying to get the ball to him, so I just tried to deny him. He was coming up as the guy was driving. Finney-Smith tried to throw it back to him, and I just put my hand out and grabbed the ball.”
Brogdon finished with two points and a steal. That he was playing at all is a tribute to his toughness and a telltale sign of his team’s collective health. He said his foot first started to hurt during practice Feb. 17, the day before the Maryland game. Brogdon shot 5 of 6 from the field and scored 14 points in 27 minutes against the Terrapins.
“It just slowly got worse throughout the Maryland game, and it’s just gotten worse,” Brogdon said.
Brogdon said he has “really flat feet, so that allows the bones to get irritated easier and [puts] a lot of pressure on them.” He said he’s had foot problems in the past and always wears orthotics to ease the stress on his feet.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that bad,” Brogdon said. “It’s something I’m going to have to treat. It can come back if I don’t treat it well. I don’t think it’s a big problem at all.”
How that plays out remains to be seen, though Virginia certainly cannot afford any more injuries. What was clear in the visiting locker room following Virginia’s win Tuesday night was the admiration Brogdon had engendered from his teammates for playing through the pain in his foot.
“Hats off to Malcolm, because I know how bad his foot was hurting,” Zeglinski said. “Just to be able to go out there and have an impact on the defensive end in that last possession and get a steal like that, it just was great.”
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