Malcolm Brogdon went off. Anthony Gill broke out of a slump. London Perrantes made three-pointers after missing them earlier in the game. Another team that thought it had Virginia in trouble wilted down the stretch as the Cavaliers beat Boston College, 66-51, without a field goal by their leading scorer.
“I’ve been saying this for a couple weeks now, but it’s next man up,” Perrantes said. “He’s one of our best scorers on the team right now, but when he’s off, other people can score.”
Virginia Coach Tony Bennett has praised his team all season for its balance as different players have stepped up at different times, but Anderson has been a constant. Named to the midseason Wooden Award watch list this week, Anderson went into Saturday averaging 14.9 points per game this season on 53.3 percent shooting.
But Anderson’s game looked off against the Eagles from the start. He missed two dunks in the first half. He missed all four shots from behind the three-point line, where he had made 55.7 percent of his attempts this season. He finished 0 for 8 overall from the field.
“It all felt good, but it just didn’t go down,” said Anderson, who finished with eight points thanks to 8-of-9 shooting on free throws. “It happens.”
But balance and their trademark defense extended the best start by the Cavaliers (17-0, 5-0 ACC) since their 1980-81 team opened 23-0. Gill finished with his third career double-double (11 points, game-high 10 rebounds), and Brogdon led all players with 20 points.
“When one person is not clicking like they should be, we have such a deep team that somebody could just come out there at any time and surprise everyone,” Gill said. “It’s not a surprise to everybody on the team because we understand what everybody is capable of.
“I think we understand that when Justin’s having a bad night, everybody understands that it’s time to pick it up.”
Boston College (8-8, 0-4) surged to a 38-33 lead a little more than 5
Virginia responded immediately. Freshman Isaiah Wilkins’s layup gave the Cavaliers the lead for good, 39-38, with about 12 minutes left. A dunk from Gill a minute later prompted the Virginia faithful in attendance to respond with a “U-V-A” chant after Boston College called a timeout to stop the bleeding.
Darion Atkins’s jumper with less than nine minutes remaining gave Virginia a 43-38 lead, capping a 10-0 run that stretched 6 minutes 11 seconds. It marked the 17th time this season that Virginia held an opponent without a point for five minutes or more.
Atkins’s hook shot gave the Cavaliers a seven-point lead with less than six minutes left, prompting another Boston College timeout. Virginia then turned to Perrantes (eight points, six assists), whose back-to-back baskets gave the Cavaliers a 10-point lead they didn’t relinquish.
“In our minds, every individual player knows that we’re about to turn it up,” Gill said. “We’re just waiting on that one moment where we say, ‘Let’s do it as a team, collectively. Let’s get it going. Let’s win this game.’ ”
The Cavaliers struggled offensively in the first half, shooting less than 40 percent. At points in the second half, they looked porous on defense, allowing 14 points in the paint. Virginia ranked first in the nation entering Saturday with 50.6 points allowed per game.
The difference came down to rebounding, where the Cavaliers held a 35-20 edge, including 13-4 on offensive rebounds. The latter margin gave Virginia 10 second-chance points to the Eagles’ two.
As it has all season, Virginia ultimately found a way to win. For Bennett, the victory was typical of his team’s identity.
“We don’t knock people out,” Bennett said. “We’re not a knockout punch team.”