Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Hoos put four players in double figures as they ran away from the Yellow Jackets in the second half.
The Virginia Cavaliers used a 20-3 second-half run to pull away from Georgia Tech 82-54 Sunday in Charlottesville. Junior forward Akil Mitchell paced Virginia with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while senior point guard Jontel Evans added 10 points and 8 assists. The win pushed UVA's record to 19-8 overall and 9-5 in the ACC. The Cavaliers are currently tied with North Carolina for third place in the league.
Virginia led for most of the first half and took a 12-point lead into intermission. Georgia Tech, however, capitalized on some hot shooting and pressure defense to pull within 45-40 with just over 14 minutes remaining. It was all Virginia from there. With Mitchell, Evans, and freshman shooting guard Taylor Barnette leading the way, the Cavaliers pushed their lead to 20 over a matter of minutes. Georgia Tech never threatened again.
Virginia's offense racked up over 70 points for the fifth time in the last six games and did so with a balanced effort. On a day when Virginia star forward Joe Harris struggled from beyond-the-arc, UVA put four starters in double figures and dominated Georgia Tech in the paint. The Hoos shot 54% from the field, including a combined 15-for-20 from Mitchell, Evans and Barnette. Barnette's three second-half three pointers electrified the crowd and served as the knockout combination.
Sunday's victory also saw the return of freshman center Mike Tobey, who missed the previous five games with mononucleosis. Tobey played 15 minutes and had seven points. He delighted fans with a three-pointer of his own to increase Virginia's lead late in the game. Tobey's return coincided with an absence from the lineup of Darion Atkins. The sophomore forward did not play Sunday, but it's unknown exactly why. Atkins has suffered from stress-related pain in his shins all season.
With the win, Virginia avenged a disappointing 66-60 loss in Atlanta in early February. The Cavaliers also notched their 15th straight victory at the John Paul Jones arena. Virginia has only lost once at home all season: an early-season upset by Delaware.
Most important, the Cavaliers kept their hopes alive for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. While a home victory over the 14-12, 4-10 Yellow Jackets won't likely turn any heads, this was a game Virginia couldn't afford to lose. The schedule gets harder from here. Virginia hosts 6th-ranked Duke on Thursday night before hitting the road for away games at Boston College and Florida State. After the win over Georgia Tech, Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage pleaded with fans to rock the house when the Blue Devils come to town. A win against Duke would significantly brighten Virginia's postseason chances.