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Virginia ekes by Pitt 51-48 clinch ACC Finals berth

We goin' to the ship!

Streeter Lecka

The Cardiac Cavs gutted out another victory, building a second-half lead then clinging to it down the stretch to earn a spot in the ACC Championship game, UVA's first spot in the final since 1994. The will be going for their second ACC title; their other championship came in 1976.

In a matchup reminiscent of the teams' first meeting in Pittsburgh, the Hoos and Panthers played a close game from start to finish before UVA snuck by in the final seconds.  Last time, Virginia did it on offense, with Malcolm Brogdon sinking a game-winning three; today, the Hoos won it on defense, when Justin Anderson blocked a potential James Robinson game-tying three-pointer to seal a 61-58 win.

Like that Super Bowl Sunday game, this one was a grind from start to finish.  A 4-0 lead was Virginia's largest of the first half, and it led by two at halftime.  UVA looked to get some semblance of a rhythm on offense early in the second period, stretching the lead to 45-37 on a sweet Anthony Gill turnaround jumper with 9:30 remaining in the game.  The bad news was that the team went on a 6 minute scoreless stretch after that, and was completely helpless on offense down the stretch, dribbling aimlessly around the perimeter before settling for deep and contested shots. The good news for Virginia was that Pitt was slow to make up ground; but slowly but surely, they did.

With 50 seconds remaining, Pitt found a cutting James Robinson for a layup to cut the lead to 3 points. Virginia had a chance to put the game out of reach, but their possession was extremely poor, ending in a Malcolm Brogdon turnover and an easy Pitt lay-up (on which Akil Mitchell was lucky not to be called for a foul).  Despite having time-outs to use, Perrantes failed to inbound the ball to Brogdon to shoot free-throws, finding Gill instead; however, he came through with 2 huge FTs to stretch the lead to three points and set up Justin Anderson's game saving block.

Both teams looked crisp on defense, successfully keeping opponents out of paint, while shots didn't seem to fall for either side.  Joe Harris led the Hoos with 12 points, showing flashes of his big game against FSU, but his three-point shot was just a bit off, as he finished 2-7 from behind the arc.  Brogdon had 10 points on 5-11 shooting, but was a liability with the ball, turning the ball over twice and dribbling far too much clock away.  Gill added 10 points, while Akil Mitchell had 8 on 4-5 shooting, pulling down 8 rebounds as well.

Virginia didn't play its best game, but still managed to slide by a motivated Pitt team.  The Hoos turned the ball over on 20% of possessions, many of them careless, and were helpless on the offensive glass as well, as Pitt pulled in 80% of UVA misses.  That's why, despite a decent shooting game (with an eFG% of 50%), UVA managed just .95 PPP.  But the Wahoo defense was as good as ever, as Pitt made just 21% of 3s and 43% of 2s on the day.  This Vine is a picture-perfect demonstration of UVA's strength on the interior, when 3 different Hoos all collapsed inside for clean blocks on a helpless Cameron Wright

UVA will have to be crisper on offense if they want to claim their second ever ACC Championship tomorrow.  But it was enough today for another good win over Pitt.  In most brackets, the Hoos sit perilously between a 2 and a 3 seed; this one could be enough to push the Hoos over the edge.  And, with a win tomorrow, Virginia will be a legitimate contender, mainly with Michigan and Wisconsin, for a number 1 seed in the Big Dance.

The Hoos take on the winner of Duke vs. NC State tomorrow at 1 PM.  The Selection Show will follow later on, beginning at 6 PM on CBS.  We'll have plenty of coverage all day here at Streaking the Lawn. Go Hoos!