Skip to content

No. 12 Virginia claims first ACC regular season title since 1981

Mar 1, 2014, 6:36 PM EST

hoos Getty Images

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.

Latest Posts
  1. No. 16 Washington hangs on to beat No. 15 Oklahoma in Las Vegas

    Dec 21, 2014, 12:10 AM EST

    Lorenzo Romar Lorenzo Romar

    With pieces that fit together better than last season’s 17-15 squad, the Huskies are off to a 10-0 start.

  2. George Mason beats preseason MAAC favorite Iona (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:26 PM EST

    George Mason Patriots vs the Old Dominion Monarchs George Mason Patriots vs the Old Dominion Monarchs

    George Mason’s last win over a Division I opponent prior to Saturday came against another MAAC program, Manhattan, on November 29.

  3. POSTERIZED: Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson dunks on Purdue 7-footer (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 PM EST

    Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo) Demetrius Jackson (AP Photo)

    Jackson scored 22 points, with two coming on an emphatic dunk on Purdue freshman Isaac Haas.

  4. Late Night Snacks: Villanova survives Syracuse while UNC, SMU get big wins

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:41 PM EST

    Jayvaughn Pinkston (Getty Images) Getty Images

    It’s already been a busy day in college hoops, with two buzzer-beaters and two ranked teams already going down.

  5. Chris Thomas, Malcolm Riley lead Texas Southern past No. 25 Michigan State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:57 PM EST

    Mike Davis Mike Davis

    While Michigan State’s 4-for-21 night from three didn’t help matters, Texas Southern shot better than 53 percent from the field.

  6. Report: Former Marquette guard/forward transferring to Iowa State

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:18 PM EST

    Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman Deonte Burton, Tim Coleman

    Burton was one of two sophomores to leave the Marquette program earlier this month.

  7. No. 1 Kentucky dismantles UCLA

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:46 PM EST

    kentucky ucla AP

    Kentucky completely embarrassed UCLA on Saturday.

  8. Wake Forest freshman guard suspended six games for violation of NCAA rules

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:04 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwrmm2riyzjmntcznwyymwm1yzy1zmqxndg1ztbimtdi AP

    Mitchell Wilbekin could miss up to six games, and classmates Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson missed Saturday’s game for conduct detrimental to the team.

  9. Rayvonte Rice gives Illinois ‘Braggin’ Rights’ for a second consecutive year (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:31 PM EST

    Rayvonte Rice, Joseph Young AP

    Illinois has now won two straight in the series, thanks to Rice’s three-pointer as time expired.

  10. No. 7 Villanova’s wild rally forces OT, where they beat Syracuse (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    Not surprising, considering Gus Johnson is on the call.

  11. No. 24 North Carolina handles No. 12 Ohio State

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:23 PM EST

    north carolina ohio state AP

    North Carolina had its most impressive showing of the season in a convincing win over Ohio State on Saturday in Chicago.

  12. Mixtape for top 2016 recruit Josh Jackson (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:30 PM EST

    (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports) (Scott Phillips/NBC Sports)

    Josh Jackson put on a show last night. Here’s a mixtape of what he can do.

  13. Alex Murphy to play, Eli Carter out vs. Wake Forest

    Dec 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EST

    AP Photo AP Photo

    This will be the first time that Murphy plays this season.

  14. More ridiculous plays from 2016 acrobat Kwe Parker at City of Palms (VIDEO)

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:00 AM EST

    (Nike) (Nike)

    Kwe Parker might only be a junior in high school, but he’s one of the best leapers in the country.

  15. Pregame Shootaround: A tremendous day of hoops filled with intriguing top-25 battles

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:00 AM EST

    TaShawn Thomas AP

    If you don’t feel like watching lower-tier bowl games, you’ll be happy to know that Saturday is loaded with great games.

  16. Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point shooting leads to blowout win over No. 18 Miami

    Dec 19, 2014, 10:13 PM EST

    AP AP

    Eastern Kentucky had 14 threes. Miami had 12 field goals.