WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — No. 11 Virginia seemingly couldn’t get a 3-pointer to fall — until the final minute, when the Cavaliers simply couldn’t miss one.
None was more important — or more unlikely — than Darius Thompson’s.
Thompson banked in a 3 at the buzzer, from the unlikely angle of the left wing, to give the Cavaliers a 72-71 victory over Wake Forest on Tuesday night.
“I just tried to get a foul, and threw it,” Thompson said. “And it happened to go off the backboard.”
Malcolm Brogdon scored 28 points and Anthony Gill added 17 for Virginia (16-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), which went on a 9-1 run in the final 15 seconds to pull off the nearly impossible.
The league’s top 3-point shooting team shook off a miserable night on the perimeter by hitting four 3s in the final minute to pull out a most unlikely victory. The Cavaliers make 40.5 percent of their 3s, but were just 1 of 13 from behind the arc in the first 39 minutes before hitting the four straight to end the game.
“We didn’t give up. Malcolm and I looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s go,'” Gill said. “We just went out there and we kept fighting throughout the whole time. It speaks to the character of this team and what we’re made of, that we never give up.”
Bryant Crawford scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and Devin Thomas added 19 for the Demon Deacons (10-10, 1-7), whose seventh loss in eight games might be their most painful after they blew a 10-point lead in the final 90 seconds.
Crawford missed one of two free throws with 4.0 seconds left to set up Virginia’s last chance. Devon Hall brought the ball up court and passed to Thompson in the left corner, and the Tennessee transfer banked in his dramatic 3 over Thomas to end it.
“A miracle shot. A once-in-a-lifetime shot,” Thomas said. “But it was our fault for putting ourselves in that situation to begin with.”
Marial Shayok finished with 10 points for the Cavaliers, who trailed 64-58 entering the final minute before Brogdon’s 3 made it a three-point game with 53.6 seconds left. But after Gill’s dunk with 46.3 seconds to play made it 66-63, Virginia had three consecutive empty possessions while Wake Forest hit 4 of 6 free throws to push its lead to 70-63.
Shayok hit a 3 from the corner to make it a four-point game with 14.5 seconds left, Thomas missed two free throws with 11.2 seconds to play and Brogdon hit another 3 with 4.7 seconds left to pull the Cavaliers to 70-69.
Crawford missed his first free throw, then made the second, and the Demon Deacons set up a full-court press, which Hall broke before finding Thompson for that huge 3 that stood after a brief official review and gave the Cavaliers their first ACC road victory this season.
“It should never have to come down to a shot like that,” Gill said.
Thompson, who made the last of his 10 starts in the loss at Virginia Tech on Jan. 4, said this was his first buzzer-beating shot since he was “in third or fourth grade, when I hit a shot similar to that.” He says he’s not frustrated by reduced playing time because “I’m going to do whatever for the team. It isn’t anything about me. It’s about our team getting wins.”
Thomas briefly went out after rolling his left ankle when he stepped on Virginia forward Jarred Reuter’s foot after hitting a jumper with about 15½ minutes left. He had to be carried off the court by two teammates, but checked back in with 11:22 to play.
Virginia: The Cavaliers have now won two straight at Joel Coliseum. They ended a 10-game losing streak in this building by beating Wake Forest by 36 points here last year. … Gill reached the 1,000-point mark for his career on a three-point play with 10:41 left in the first half.
Wake Forest: Dinos Mitoglou finished with 11 points for the Demon Deacons, who missed their first eight attempts from 3-point range but hit 6 of 9 from long range after halftime. … They twice led by 14 points, the last coming on John Collins’ free throw with 7:57 left.
Virginia is at No. 16 Louisville on Saturday.
Wake Forest is at No. 25 Notre Dame on Saturday.
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