It wasn’t until 27 seconds remained in the game that Virginia coach Tony Bennett looked up at the scoreboard and breathed a sigh of relief.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It wasn’t until 27 seconds remained in the game that Virginia coach Tony Bennett looked up at the scoreboard and breathed a sigh of relief.
The Cavaliers seem rather determined to use the NCAA tournament to put a tinge of gray in their sixth-year head coach’s smooth black hair.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points, Justin Anderson re-emerged as a scoring threat and second-seeded Virginia survived another opening-round scare, defeating 15th-seeded Belmont 79-67 on Friday in the round of 64.
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Anderson, who is recovering from a broken left pinky, had 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting and Anthony Gill added 16 points for the Cavaliers (30-3), who recorded consecutive 30-win seasons for the first time in school history.
“I knew we were going to have to make some plays, get some stops and make some free throws,” Bennett said. “But you are never (comfortable) when you play a team like that that has big-play ability.”
Virginia made plenty of plays in the final 4½ minutes, including all 11 free-throw attempts.
Like last year when Virginia avoided a historic upset and held on to beat 16th-seeded Coastal Carolina, the Cavaliers needed a late second-half push to set up a rematch with No. 7 seed Michigan State on Sunday in the East Region. The Spartans knocked Virginia out of the Sweet 16 in last year’s tournament.
Belmont (22-11) clawed within two behind 25 points from first-team Ohio Valley Conference selection Craig Bradshaw, but the Cavaliers outscored the Bruins 17-7 over the final 4:37 of the game.
Michigan St. 70, Georgia 63
In Charlotte, N.C., Denzel Valentine scored 16 points and went 6 for 6 at the free-throw line in the final 30 seconds to help Michigan State hold off Georgia.
Travis Trice scored 15 points and Branden Dawson had a strong second half for the seventh-seeded Spartans (24-11).
Yet they weren’t nearly so steady coming down the stretch, flirting with blowing a 10-point lead in the final 1:16. Valentine’s free throws were critical as Georgia (21-12) rallied to make it a one-possession game in a finish that at one point had Spartans longtime coach Tom Izzo turning and punching the scorer’s table in fury.
Oklahoma 69, Albany 60
In Columbus, Ohio, TaShawn Thomas powered his way to 18 points inside and versatile Buddy Hield added 15 to lead third-seeded Oklahoma past Albany, carrying the Sooners into the round of 32 after early exits the past two years.
The Sooners (23-10), who led wire to wire, advance to play Sunday against Dayton.
Peter Hooley had 15 points, Evan Singletary 13, Sam Rowley 12 and Ray Sanders 11 for No. 14-seeded Albany (24-9), regular season and tournament champs of the America East Conference.
Dayton 66, Providence 53
In Columbus, Ohio, Dyshawn Pierre scored 20 points and Dayton rode a loud home-crowd advantage to another NCAA tournament victory.
The 11th-seeded Flyers (27-8) will face Oklahoma on Sunday night, with a chance to reach the round of 16 for the second straight season.
Sixth-seeded Providence (22-12) could not overcome early foul trouble on Big East player of the year Kris Dunn or a Dayton team buoyed by a legion of fans that made the 80-mile trip to Columbus. Dunn finished with 11 points before fouling out.