The Washington Post

Virginia basketball defeats Pittsburgh, 48-45, on a last-second shot by Malcolm Brogdon

Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon, right, hit what he said was his first game-winning shot in a victory over No. 18 Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Virginia freshman London Perrantes leaned against a wall at the Petersen Events Center and waited for the question to come teammate Malcolm Brogdon’s way.

Brogdon’s three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining lifted the Cavaliers to a dramatic 48-45 victory over No. 18 Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon. As soon as it left his hands, Brogdon said he knew the shot would hit nothing but net. What followed, though, was anything but certain.

“Tell them what you said after you ran back and made it,” Perrantes shouted over a din of reporters and cameras.

Brogdon (16 points, five rebounds, four assists) giggled, unsure of just what had come out of his mouth, the excitement of Virginia’s first win against a ranked opponent this season clouding his short-term memory. So Perrantes proceeded to do his best Brogdon impression.

“I’ve never done this before,” the point guard said, elevating his voice another octave. “What do I do?”

The Cavaliers (17-5 overall, 8-1 ACC) emerged from a bruising battle with smiles on their faces, the program’s best start in ACC play since the 1981-82 season secured in front of a raucous sellout crowd unaccustomed to watching the Panthers (18-4, 6-3) lose.

The first ACC matchup between these programs and their similar styles went exactly as everybody expected. Neither Pittsburgh nor Virginia led by more than four points as the action resembled a slugfest more than a basketball game.

Cavaliers star Joe Harris (11 points) and Pittsburgh’s Lamar Patterson (10 points) were a combined 7 for 26 from the field. The Panthers led 23-21 at the half, the sort of defensive struggle that only Coach Tony Bennett would call “beautifully played.” He told his team at the break, “I love this.”

“We needed to be challenged. We needed to be tested,” said senior Akil Mitchell (10 points, 12 rebounds) after Virginia improved to 2-3 in games decided by five points or less this season.

Before Brogdon’s game-winner, though, Virginia’s last field goal came via a three pointer by Harris with 8 minutes 13 seconds remaining in regulation. Guard Cameron Wright scored Pittsburgh’s final basket on a desperation heave from beyond the arc that gave the Panthers a 44-41 lead with less than seven minutes to go. Harris then tied the score at 45 on a free throw with 3:12 remaining.

From there, it was stop after stop, the tension building with each one. And for a moment, it looked as if Virginia might come out on the short end after winning its previous seven conference games by double digits.

With about 18 seconds left, Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson (DeMatha) found a rare open look from three-point-range. It clanked off the rim. Panthers freshman Jamel Artis (team-high 11 points and seven rebounds) corralled the rebound only to blow a point-blank putback layin as the clock ticked below 10 seconds.

That gave Virginia its opening. In the huddle during the ensuing timeout, Bennett called “triple pop,” a play he had installed a week and a half earlier. The Cavaliers had worked on it every day since at the end of practice, but “we never make it,” Bennett said.

It was designed to use Harris as a decoy coming around two different curl screens, with Brogdon emerging a split second later as the primary option after setting a pick.

In the moment, forward Anthony Gill was in the wrong spot and turned the play into a trio of screens. Nonetheless, Wright and Robinson chased Harris, leaving Brogdon a narrow opening from about two feet beyond the arc for a moment he only had experienced in his dreams.

And when it swished through the net, Brogdon flailed his legs wildly in the air before telling his teammates he didn’t know how to react.

“You always see that stuff on TV,” said Brogdon, who then mentioned watching Duke’s Rasheed Sulaimon’s tying three-pointer at Syracuse from Virginia’s hotel Saturday night. “It’s almost surreal for you to hit that shot.”

Mark Giannotto is a Montgomery County native who covers high school sports for The Washington Post. He previously covered Virginia and Virginia Tech football for five years.
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