Was Marco Anthony the difference in the game? The margin of victory was 10; Marco scored 10 points. In a game where backup guard Nigel Johnson was suspended, senior leader Devon Hall was limited by illness, and redshirt-freshman sensation De'Andre Hunter hobbled by a sprained ankle, Tony Bennett recalled Anthony from Iron Mountain and sent him into the game at the twelve minute mark of the first half. The kid stole some minutes, then popped his first two shots for five first half points on a late baseline drive and jumper and an open corner three when Hunter suckered Anthony's defender into leaving him open by pretending to lose control of the dribble.
Then in the second half, Anthony came in again and struck twice more: first on a wide open corner three to beat the shot clock off a brilliant drive and dish from Ty Jerome, then an improbable downhill dribble assault on the Pharoah. Marco Anthony and the Egyptian is just too evocative for me to leave alone. Those who know their ancient history will recall with me that Marc Anthony contributed to the destruction of the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt with his romance with Cleopatra. The Romans would conquer Egypt (largely due to Anthony's and Cleopatra's incompetence but we'll try to pretend that part out of history for now) and end its history as a great empire.
Anthony rose to his moment. His poise and confidence were not unprecedented, as he made a bit of a splash in the pre-season intrasquad scrimmage for the same thing. He was poised on the ball and aggressive in getting into the lane in that game, and he was the same here. His jump into the shotblocker's chest was a move that his teammates should emulate.
After the game, Anthony of course was the focus of much of the coverage, and Jerome gave him props in the press conference:
Anthony's performance deepens the bench and makes the Hoos' scoring profile even more youthful. Sophomores and freshmen accounted for 60 of the 74 points Virginia scored in this game. It continued a trend for the Hoos, as the same classes provided 42 of the 65 points against Duke - almost identical to their share of Virginia's points in ACC play. The underclassmen average 42.9 of Virginia's 65.7 points per game in ACC competition.
Thanks to the young man from San Antonio, Virginia was able to gut out a big conference win in what may have been the least ballyhooed #1 vs #2 in the ACC battle we have seen in years. Performances like Anthony's could result in the Hoos playing an unscheduled game or two in his hometown this April.
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