NCAA

What does Virginia's win over Virginia Tech really mean?

What does Virginia's win over Virginia Tech really mean?

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- It is easy to get swept up in the emotion of a big victory. Coaches and players on the winning side always add extra weight and meaning to a game after they have won while the losing team always tries to downplay the significance. On Friday in Charlottesville when Virginia defeated Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003, with fans storming the field and the raw emotion of the players and coaches as the backdrop, that win certainly felt like more than just one regular-season rivalry game.

That was the message the Cavaliers pushed afterward.

"It feels like a burden taken off of us," defensive end Mandy Alonso said. "It’s amazing for this program and for Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall to come in and change the whole program. To be a part of this is just a grateful feeling.”

"The stage was not too big for them," Mendenhall said. "The moment was not too big for them. What was at stake was not too big for them. They believed that they were capable and prepared to perform in this setting and they did. "

Clearly this was a big win for Virginia, but could it actually signal a passing of the torch to the Cavaliers as the top college football program in the Commonwealth?

To anyone sporting maroon and orange, that is a ridiculous notion. Bryce Perkins is what makes the Cavaliers' offense go and he was able to torch the Hokies for 475 total yards, but he is a senior and will be moving on. Yes, UVA got the win, but that ended a streak of 15 straight wins for the Hokies. One win does not suddenly erase a decade and a half of dominance.

They had to win sometime, right?

Not surprisingly, the message from Virginia Tech’s locker room was very different from their counterparts as the Hokies described it as just one game that the team would put behind them.

"It was a tough loss, but we just need to move on," wide receiver Tayvion Robinson said.

"I told them we can take this event and go one of two ways," head coach Justin Fuente said. "It can draw us closer together, fuel our fire. We have one more opportunity to play football together with this group. One more chance to play better against whoever we play. That needs to be our focus.”

But the last 15 years of the rivalry is not the only context that mattered on Saturday and the Commonwealth Cup wasn’t the only trophy on the line. Saturday’s game was for the ACC Coastal Division crown as well. It is also year four for both Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech when a head coach is supposed to be hitting his stride at a school with his system firmly in place and the roster full of his own recruits.

At the very least, it does seem like Virginia and Virginia Tech are two teams headed in opposite directions.

The Cavaliers won the division on Friday for the first time ever. UVA's win total has risen each year during Mendenhall’s tenure going from two to six to eight to now nine and that’s before the ACC Championship and the bowl game. This will be the team’s third consecutive season making a bowl, the longest streak enjoyed in Charlottesville since 2002-05.

“It’s an essential step," Mendenhall said of the team's first division crown. "You can’t build a consistent conference or national contender unless you own your state. You have to win your division before you can win the conference championship. Those have to happen to have a quality football program."

Under Fuente, Virginia Tech won 10 games and the Coastal Division in his first year as head coach in 2016. The Hokies won nine games in 2017 and just six in 2018, suffering the team’s first losing season since 1992. It took an emergency schedule addition of Marshall in the final week of the season just to earn that sixth win and keep the team's coveted bowl streak alive.

Yes, 2019’s season with eight wins shows a bit of a bounceback from 2018, but legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster is on his way out and the overall trajectory of the program over Fuente’s four years seems to be trending down.

What’s more, Virginia is even out-recruiting Virginia Tech as both Rivals and 247 Sports currently rank Mendenhall’s 2020 class ahead of Fuente’s. Granted, recruiting classes can change dramatically on signing day, but this is a sign that, at least to recruits, state supremacy appears to be up for grabs.

At the very least, Friday's game showed two things.

First, it showed the level of confidence Mendenhall has injected into a program that had very little reason to feel that way over the past 20 years.

"We expected to win and we expected to be in the ACC championship," wide receiver Hasise Dubois said.

"All year long, all spring, all camp, since that bowl game we’ve been working as a team to be exactly here," Perkins said. "We talked about it all year, ACC champs, beat Tech and everything that we’ve done all year in practice and in games had led us to this moment."

Second, Virginia's win fanned the flames of a rivalry that has felt largely dormant through Virginia Tech's run.

"I respect their program and I respect them as a rival," Mendenhall said. "The quality of their program has helped us improve our program. They’ve set a standard that has been helpful for us to measure against and to grow against in the short time I’ve been here."

"Our kids will remember this I think," Foster said. "I talked to them about a rivalry. A rivalry is when two teams win and now this team won. So yeah, we will need to kick this thing back up again when it is all said and done.”

It has been four years since the Commonwealth Cup shifted from Frank Beamer vs. Mike London to Fuente vs. Mendenhall. Fuente has thus far won three out of four of those games, but with his win coming in the pivotal fourth year for each coach at their respective program, it is not a stretch to believe that Mendenhall’s lone win may be the most important of the four.

Said Mendenhall, "Today was as close as I've seen to what is possible at Scott Stadium."

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Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

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Georgetown stayed close with No. 15 Butler, but forgot to cover Sean McDermott

WASHINGTON -- By no stretch of the imagination did Georgetown have a good game against the Butler Bulldogs on Tuesday evening. But in the final minute of regulation, the Hoyas found themselves in a closely contested ballgame with the chance to steal a home victory over a ranked opponent. 

The only issue is they forgot to cover sharpshooter Sean McDermott. They forgot about him quite often in a 69-64 loss to No. 15 Butler

Throughout an 18-1 run stretching from the end of the first half and into the second, the Hoyas somehow could not find No. 22 in black on the court. Slipping screens, rotating into corners and simply finding the open hole on the perimeter, McDermott continuously found ways to get open against the Hoyas defense. 

Entering the game, he was a 40% 3-point shooter. Georgetown knew he was going to be a threat. Yet, possession after possession he was left on an island in the corner of the court. He rarely missed. 

“He’s not the focal point of their team but tonight he played a great game,” Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing said. “We knew that he was a very good shooter. Our goal was to keep him off the 3-point line and we didn’t do a good job of getting that.”

He scored 12 of Butler’s points during that run. Every basket during that stretch was from behind the arc. It erased a 14-point deficit for the Bulldogs and gave them control of the game.

As deadly as those threes were, though, it was McDermott’s last three that was the biggest. 

Somehow, after trailing by seven late in the second half, Georgetown had climbed back into the game. Entering the final minute, it was tied at 64 and the Hoyas appeared to have the momentum. The home crowd of 5,329 was on their feet and fully invested. 

Then McDermott did what he had done all game to that point: Slip away from a helping defender and knock down an open three. He faked to set up a pick-and-roll and read the Hoyas defense to perfection. Once again, he was left alone from behind the arc.

That was the final of McDermott’s 25 points on the night to lead all scorers. From the field, he was 9-for-12, and 7-for-10 from behind the arc. It was the second time this season he reached 25 points and the third time in his career he nailed seven 3-pointers. 

There’s no easier way to say it other than he torched Georgetown. 

The failure to close out on one of the best 3-point shooters in the Big East will haunt the Hoyas. Despite Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven’s 8-for-30 combined shooting effort, the Hoyas were in the game. They’ve never been in a game this season when neither of them were able to get going. 

Add in 12 forced turnovers in the first half and a nine-point lead, it was a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity that the 12-9 (2-6) Hoyas cannot afford to have anymore this season.

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Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

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Baldwin heats up again as Butler beats Georgetown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Kamar Baldwin heated up after halftime for the second consecutive game, helping No. 16 Butler overcome another deficit to beat Georgetown 69-64 Tuesday night.

Baldwin scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half, and now Butler has won two consecutive games after dropping three in a row in Big East play.

Baldwin didn't quite go off like Friday against Marquette, but Butler's leading scorer took over the game after being held to one point in the first half. Baldwin scored 12 in the second half and set up Sean McDermott for the go-ahead 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds left.

McDermott scored 11 of his 25 points during an 18-3 run early in the second half. Butler (17-4, 5-3 Big East) was down by as many as 14 before halftime but never trailed again after taking the lead.

Baldwin was the catalyst for the turnaround, four days after he followed up a two-point first half by scoring 29 the rest of the way in an overtime win. He had four of his six assists in the second half and finished with 13 points.

Georgetown (12-9, 2-6) built its big lead by making 13 of 14 free throw attempts and capitalizing on Butler's 12 first-half turnovers. Center Omer Yurtseven led the Hoyas with 14 points and 13 rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Butler: Comeback or not, the Bulldogs miss point guard Aaron Thompson. He has now missed two consecutive games with a wrist injury, and Butler had to rally each time. Baldwin can clearly flip a switch, but Butler's offense works better with Thompson setting the table.

Georgetown: A team that struggles on defense can't afford to go cold. Especially with just a seven-player rotation, the Hoyas can get worn down easily by talented opponents, and their upcoming schedule doesn't get any easier.

UP NEXT

Butler: Hosts Providence on Saturday afternoon before a showdown next week against Villanova. The Friars have lost three in a row and four of five.

Georgetown: Coach Patrick Ewing returns to Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon when the Hoyas visit St. John's. Fans chanted the former New York Knicks star's name in November when Georgetown upset Texas in Ewing's old home arena.

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