CHICAGO, Ill. — As the final seconds wound down in Virginia’s game against Iowa State, coach Tony Bennett was fighting to hide a smile. The Cavaliers (28-7) punched their ticket to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995 with a dominating performance over the Iowa State Cyclones (23-12).
No. 1 seed Virginia jumped out to an early lead over No. 4 seed Iowa State and never looked back, leading the Cyclones for the entire game. The Cavaliers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, and held onto a solid lead in the second half despite a few threats by Iowa State’s offense.
Iowa State senior Georges Niang, who was on Virginia’s radar coming into the game, scored a game-high 30 points. Virginia was able to reduce Niang’s minutes by getting the All-American into foul trouble early in the second half. Iowa State’s other four starters scored a combined 30 points. The Cyclones, who were scoring an average of 82 points per game, were held to 71 points by the Cavalier defense.
Friday night’s game left little doubt that Virginia is a national championship contender. The Cavaliers put a tournament-high 84 points on the board and shot 56.1 percent from the field overall. The team followed through on nearly every opportunity and out-rebounded Iowa State 33-24.
Virginia senior Anthony Gill was the man of the game, dominating down low and finishing with a team-high 23 points while shooting 8 of 10 from the field. The senior also led the team in rebounds, grabbing eight. Gill also put an exclamation point onto the end of the game with a monster dunk late in the second half to give Virginia a 80-67 lead and shut down the Cyclones once and for all.
Cavalier senior Mike Tobey also put on a phenomenal performance to propel Virginia to the win. The 7-footer scored 18 points off the bench and pulled down seven rebounds. Tobey used his size to his advantage to win the battles down low and make 66.7% of his shots from the field.
The Cavaliers had two other players in the double digits with Naismith award finalist Malcolm Brogdon contributing 12 points and sophomore Isaiah Wilkins coming off the bench to put another 12 on the scoreboard. Sophomore Devon Hall made big contributions off the bench as well, leading the team with seven assists.
Friday night’s contest showed that several players on the Virginia squad are capable of stepping up and taking the lead, whether it be a starter like Gill, or Tobey coming off the bench – and that should be something for Tony Bennett to smile about.
The team has just one day to prepare for its next challenge as it will take on Syracuse on Easter Sunday.