Mar 1, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
In their final non-conference game before the start of ACC play No. 12 Virginia turned in its worst performance of the season, losing 87-52 at Tennessee in a game that was never in doubt. On that evening Tony Bennett’s squad looked more like a team that would have to fight its way into the NCAA tournament than one that could potentially win the ACC.
But that changed in conference play, and on Saturday the Cavaliers beat No. 4 Syracuse 75-56 to win their first ACC regular season title since 1981. Trailing by a point at the half, Virginia pulled away in the second half thanks to a combination of stout half-court defense and much-improved offensive execution. In the game’s final 20 minutes Tony Bennett’s team shot 57.7% from the field and scored a staggering 1.55 points per possession, making seven of its 11 three-point attempts.
However to focus solely on the second-half perimeter shooting when discussing how Virginia was able to execute so well against the Syracuse zone would be a mistake. The Cavaliers did shoot 8-for-16 for the afternoon, but they didn’t settle for many of those looks. Malcolm Brogdon, who finished the game 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, proved to be valuable in his ability to attack the Syracuse defense at the foul line area as both a passer and a scorer. Freshman point guard London Perrantes was also key, dishing out seven assists and turning the ball over just twice.
As a team Virginia assisted on 19 of its 27 made field goals and turned the ball over six times, winning the turnover battle against a Syracuse team that has excelled in that department for much of the season. And Virginia’s performance on the boards shouldn’t be overlooked either, as they both took away one of Syracuse’s strengths (offensive rebounding) and made the Orange pay on the other end.
Syracuse entered Saturday ranked second in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, but they managed just ten offensive rebounds and ten second-chance points. By comparison Virginia corralled 13 offensive rebounds (Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey combined for ten) and converted those opportunities into 21 second-chance points, doing much of that work (nine offensive rebounds) in the first half. The Orange were missing a key piece in the second half with Jerami Grant (back) having to sit out, but the Cavaliers simply outperformed them on both ends of the floor.
Virginia has multiple players capable of taking the reins, something that wasn’t the case a season ago. Joe Harris, while not required to score as much as he did last year, remains a threat and the return of Brogdon has certainly helped to alleviate some of that pressure.
Perrantes has been outstanding in running the offense, making sound decisions and displaying a level of maturity you don’t always see from freshman point guards. And in the front court Mitchell (12 points, nine rebounds) and Tobey (11 points, eight rebounds) both played well on Saturday, with Justin Anderson adding 11 points off the bench.
Virginia looked incapable of winning the ACC on that late-December Monday night in Knoxville, but as the season’s worn on the Cavaliers have shown otherwise. On Saturday Virginia achieved that goal, but there’s anything to be taken from the result its that they’re capable of doing more.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:04 PM EDT
Elijah Bryant will have three years of eligibility remaining.
Jul 28, 2015, 8:43 PM EDT
The Arkansas forward was charged with one count of forgery last week.
Jul 28, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The three-star forward failed to qualify earlier this month.
Jul 28, 2015, 6:21 PM EDT
Bobby Hurley off to a good start in his new gig in Tempe.
Jul 28, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
Tai Wynyard of New Zealand is the only commit currently in Kentucky’s Class of 2016.
Jul 28, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
John Beilein gets his third commitment for 2016.
Jul 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
If you can do things like this, you can play for Duke or Kentucky.
Jul 28, 2015, 3:58 PM EDT
The accusations against him include burner phones, hiding IP addresses and his mother’s cell.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:35 PM EDT
Don’t jump, kid!!!!!!
Jul 28, 2015, 1:34 PM EDT
Abrams was projected as the starting point guard for Illinois.
Jul 28, 2015, 1:03 PM EDT
The Bulldogs aren’t guaranteed to play a top 25 team until SEC play.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:49 AM EDT
He is talented, just don’t call him the next Kevin Durant.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT
Will Wade will have a beautiful facility to recruit to.
Jul 27, 2015, 9:28 PM EDT
First career 3-pointer for Jones?
Jul 27, 2015, 8:12 PM EDT
Potentially four top-25 teams will be in the 2015 field.
Jul 27, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
Scott averaged 15.7 points per game for Grambling during the 2013-14 season.
Jul 27, 2015, 5:18 PM EDT
The former Big Ten Player of the Year (inaccurately) trolls Ohio State fans
Jul 27, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
It’s pretty obvious why people like Porter.
Jul 27, 2015, 2:17 PM EDT
Gabriel was the biggest stock riser for the month.
Jul 27, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT
Denzel Valentine and Taurean Waller-Prince also played well in stretches.
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