RALEIGH, N.C. >> Coastal Carolina did enough in the first half to allow the Chanticleers to believe they could become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
They just couldn’t keep knocking down the shots that had given them a halftime lead once Virginia stepped up its defense.
Coastal Carolina shot 32 percent after halftime in Friday night’s 70-59 loss in the second round of the East Region, a reversal from a first half that saw the Chanticleers cut through the Cavaliers’ normally stingy defense to shoot 52 percent.
“We felt real good at halftime,” guard Eric Smith said. “We did a good job early on following the game plan, which was to control the boards, take good shots when we get them.”
The Chanticleers led by 10 in the first half and five at halftime before Virginia took over.
“They played tremendous defense, especially the second half,” coach Cliff Ellis said. “They really took us out of what we wanted to do.”
For Virginia, Anthony Gill scored 17 points and the Cavaliers pushed ahead for good with about 9 minutes left.
A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and the Cavs (29-6) ensured history would wait at least another year.
Evan Nolte came off the bench and hit two huge 3-pointers to help Virginia finally push away from the Big South champion Chanticleers (21-13), who were in the tournament for the first time in 21 years.
The game was tied at 47 before Nolte’s 3s powered a 23-7 spurt that finally put the game away.
Virginia advanced to Sunday’s third round to face No. 8 seed Memphis.
In many ways, the second half was a perfect illustration of the formula that carried the Cavaliers to their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament since 1976 and the program’s first No. 1 seed since the days of Ralph Sampson.
After struggling to slow the hot-shooting Chanticleers early, the Cavaliers locked down on defense while improving their own offensive efficiency to slowly take control.
Virginia shot 65 percent (13 for 20) after halftime — including 6 for 10 from 3-point range — while locking down on Coastal Carolina.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 10 of his 14 points after halftime, but the Cavaliers got some of their biggest contributions from the bench.
Gill followed his big three-game run through the ACC tournament by going 7 for 10 from the field to lead Virginia. Meanwhile, Nolte — a 6-foot-8 sophomore who had barely played in recent games — came off the bench after Akil Mitchell picked up his third foul at the 8:53 mark and knocked down the two 3s that helped Virginia push ahead 56-48.
He hadn’t attempted a shot Friday night before burying those two 3s.
Freshman London Perrantes added 12 points and six assists with no turnovers for Virginia in his first NCAA game.
Badou Diagne scored 14 points to lead the Chanticleers, while Warren Gillis added 13 in the program’s first NCAA game since 1993.
Ellis — who could appreciate Virginia’s run after spending a decade in the ACC as Clemson’s coach from 1984-94 — couldn’t have asked for much more from his team.
Playing on the same court where 14th-seeded Mercer upended Duke earlier Friday, Coastal Carolina threatened to pull off an even bigger upset when by shooting 52 percent in the first half to take a 35-30 lead at the break.
That made the Chanticleers only the ninth No. 16 seed ever to take a halftime lead on a No. 1 seed, though it’s now happened for three straight years.
They just couldn’t finish off the Cavaliers, who went ahead for good on three free throws from Perrantes with 8:34 left followed by Nolte’s 3 that finally gave Virginia a cushion.