RALEIGH, N.C. – Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 with authority.
The top-seeded Cavaliers drubbed No. 8-seeded Memphis 78-60 on Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament’s East Regional third round at PNC Arena.
It will be the first Sweet 16 appearance in 19 years for the Cavaliers, who received 16 points from guard Joe Harris.
Forward Anthony Gill supplied 13 points, center Mike Tobey added 11 points and guard Malcolm Brogdon and guard Justin Anderson had 10 points each.
Virginia (30-6) goes on to face No. 4-seeded Michigan State (28-8) on Friday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Virginia saved the Atlantic Coast Conference from postseason misery, extending the league’s consecutive seasons of putting at least one team in the Sweet 16 to 35 years. This came after weekend losses by Pittsburgh, Syracuse and North Carolina on top of defeats suffered by North Carolina State and Duke.
Virginia, which has lost only once in a two-month period, tied the school record for victories. The Cavaliers last registered 30 wins in the 1981-82 season.
Forward Austin Nichols scored 15 points and guard Geron Johnson had 11 points for Memphis (24-10), which was trying to advance to Sweet 16 for first time since 2009.
But the Cavaliers, who were supported by an enthusiastic turnout from the neighboring state in an ACC venue, never gave the Tigers openings.
Virginia was in position to post its most lopsided victory since a 31-point thrashing of North Carolina State in early January on the same court until reserves entered in the last three minutes.
The Cavaliers blew open the game in the second half with a stretch of 7-for-8 shooting from the field to create a 56-36 lead.
At one point, Virginia was threatening to post its best shooting game of the season (63.8 percent vs. Notre Dame). The Cavaliers ended up at 55.6 percent.
By the time Tobey tossed in a 3-point shot with less than four minutes left, it was clear everything was going Virginia’s way. Tobey had missed his previous two 3-point attempts this season.
Virginia led 35-20 at halftime, ending the half on a 16-2 run.
Included in the surge was Virginia’s second 10-0 run second in as many games. The Cavaliers produced at least one spurt of 10 or more consecutive points in 19 of their games this season.
Harris and guard London Perrantes drained 3-pointers during the latest such stretch. Perrantes is often overshadowed, but he connected on 21 of 31 shots from 3-point range in the nine games leading to Sunday night’s clash.
Eight players scored in the half for the Cavaliers.
Virginia, which entered the game No. 1 nationally in defense by allowing 55.4 points per game, held Memphis to 26.7 percent shooting in the first half.
NOTES: These teams never met previously. Under coach Josh Pastner, the Tigers were 9-0 against teams they faced for the first time before Sunday. … Virginia C Mike Tobey had six points in the first 12 minutes, similar early production to the kind he provided a week earlier in the ACC tournament final against Duke. He averages 6.3 points per game. … Virginia won its all four of its previous games under coach Tony Bennett at PNC Arena, which is North Carolina State’s home court.
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