Virginia, the top-seeded team in the East Region following a 29-6 showing in the regular season, trailed 35-30 at halftime and for some time appeared to be in danger of becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. The first-half performance even had the Cavs players fighting at halftime.
“At halftime, there was a little bit of bickering going on,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told TBS’ Rachel Nichols after the game.
“We said, ‘listen, stay unified. We’ve come this far by staying together and not fracturing and now’s not the time. We need to play with more desire defensively and soundness, and let’s just really stay together and not panic.’”
Bennett’s advice worked. Coastal Carolina kept it close until about eight minutes left, which is when Virginia began to pull away.
Maybe Virginia started to play better defense in the second half, or maybe Coastal just started missing some of the contested shots they made earlier in the game. It’s awfully hard to play 40 good minutes of offense against that defense.