The Champs Are Here! UVa. tops Duke in ACC Tournament Final

uva acc champsWith 5:50 to go, Joe Harris found Malcolm Brogdon on a pretty backdoor cut and pass for an easy layup that gave top seed UVa. a 55-53 lead over #3 seed Duke.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett called a 30-second timeout, and devised a quick strategy for trying to neutralize Jabari Parker, a freshman expected to be the top pick in the NBA Draft if he were to decide to go pro after one season in Durham.

Parker got the ball in the post on the next Duke possession, and was immediately double-teamed and forced to pass the ball back out to the perimeter, where Tyler Thornton turned the ball over.

Akil Mitchell, on the other end, put back a Joe Harris miss, and Duke coach mike krzyzewski called timeout to try to counter Bennett’s strategy, moving Parker back out to the perimeter to take away the double team.

Parker drove the ball in on Mitchell and missed a jumper, and then two others after getting offensive rebounds.

The ACC Freshman of the Year would not score again, and Virginia (28-6, 19-2 ACC) pulled away down the stretch for a 72-63 win that allowed the team to celebrate on the floor as the ACC Tournament champions for the first time since 1976.

“I told these guys in the locker room just now, to me, the true joy is in how they played when the ball was tipped between the lines, how hard they played. How well they played. Not perfect. How they defended, how they moved the ball and tried to outlast through the game. And that’s it,” Bennett said.

“We’ll celebrate all this stuff later on, but that’s what I liked, and you want to play good ball now heading into the NCAA Tournament. So it’s great. For these guys, who have been through a lot, it’s a nice feeling for sure,” Bennett said,

Hours later, the team found out that it had received the #1 seed in the East Regional, and will open play on Friday at approximately 9:20 p.m. against #16 seed coastal carolina (21-12), the Big South champ making the program’s first NCAA appearance in 21 years.

The day started with a buzz on the Internet about the growing sense that a win over Duke and a loss by Michigan in the Big 10 Championship to Michigan State could elevate its NCAA seed to a #1. And on the court, the game started with Virginia looking like it was going to run the doors off Duke, which had defeated Virginia 69-65 in Durham in January in the only regular-season matchup between the two, bolting to a 9-2 lead in the first 3:31 and leading 16-7 with 10:26 left in the first half before Duke made a defensive switch of its own.

Pitt had success in the final 10 minutes of the ACC Tournament Semifinals overplaying point guard London Perrantes, basically forcing either Malcolm Brogdon or Joe Harris to initiate the offense, taking them away from their roles as penetrators and three-point threats.

The strategy worked, as Virginia scored just twice from the field in the final 10:26 to limp into the locker room with a much more narrow 28-26 lead.

The two teams traded baskets for the first 10:16 of the second half as Virginia led 44-42 on a pair of free throws by Anthony Gill, who only scored one shot from the field, but was 10-for-17 from the line as he constantly attacked the Duke interior and single-handedly got three of Duke’s bigs (Parker, Rodney Hood and Amile Jefferson) into foul trouble.

Parker, who had shot just 2-for-10 from the field in the first half, hit a three on Duke’s next possession, part of a 7-for-10 hot stretch that gave Duke its first lead since the early stages of the game, at 45-44 9:14 left.

It was 53-53 with 6:06 to go when Harris hit Brogdon on the backdoor, and Bennett called the timeout. The Thornton turnover, and the three misses by Parker on the next Duke possession, opened the door for Virginia, which scored on its next three possessions to open up a 59-53 lead on a pair of free throws by Gill with 3:30 to go on what was the fourth foul by Parker.

Rodney Hood scored on a strong post move and was fouled by Harris, but missed the free throw leave the margin at four at 59-55 with 3:21 left.

After a London Perrantes turnover, Rasheed Sulaimon scored on a layup with 2:51 to go to cut the UVa. lead to two at 59-57.

A Mitchell putback of a Brogdon miss with 2:23 left made it 61-57 Virginia. Parker, still struggling to cope with the fact that Virginia had decided minutes earlier to take him completely out of the game, turned the ball over in the lane on Duke’s next possession, and Harris hit a transition three with 2:00 on the clock to extend the UVa. lead to 64-57.

Harris had a chance to push the lead to nine at the 1:33 mark on a drive and finger roll that rimmed out, and Duke got a three from the right wing from Quinn Cook to cut the deficit to 64-60 with 1:26 to go.

A Brogdon backdoor layup at 1:05 pushed the lead to 66-60, and Perrantes forced a Cook miss in the lane with 58 seconds left that put Brogdon on the line for two free throws, both of which went down for a 68-60 lead.

By this point, Duke was in desperation mode, and when Sulaimon missed a three with 42 seconds left, and didn’t get a foul call on an NBA-like move that he has used before where he kicks his legs out trying to draw contact from defenders, he yelled at the nearest referee about the lack of call, and was assessed with a technical foul. Brogdon sank three of the four ensuing free throws to push the lead to 11, and the game was over.

“It was an amazingly physical game,” Duke coach mike krzyzewski said. “Both teams wanted it so hard, so much. They were poised. They finished better than we did. Obviously, they got to the foul line a helluva lot better than we did. And they’re just a good team.”

Virginia shot 54.2 percent (13-of-24) in the second half after shooting just 34.8 percent in the first half, which saw the Cavs missed 11 of their final 13 shots from the field. Brogdon led UVa. with 23 points on 7-of-17 shooting from the field.

Harris, the ACC Tournament MVP, scored 15 points, and Gill had 12 points, going 10-for-17 from the foul line.

Akil Mitchell had seven points and a game-high 15 rebounds for Virginia, which outrebounded Duke 39-35.

Parker had 23 points for Duke, but was just 9-for-24 from the field. Hood had 13 and Jefferson 11 for Duke, which shot 38 percent from the field for the game.

So now the questions about 1976 can be retired. The 2014 Cavaliers have something to add to the trophy case alongside the Cardiac Cavs that won the ’76 ACC Tournament.

The large contingent that drove down from Virginia to be in the stands in the Greensboro Coliseum for the potentially history-making day hung around for more than an hour after the final buzzer to soak in the feeling of victory that has eluded the UVa. fan base for two generations.

Their message to the team as it celebrated on the court: “Two more nets.”

“We still have work to do,” Bennett said. “How they’ve sustained it from start to finish. Conference play to now. That’s different. And so that, I take my hat off to knowing there’s still stuff in front of us. That’s what I appreciate.”

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