The Virginia Cavaliers are the 2014 ACC Champions! The Hoos won the conference regular season championship, finishing with a 16-2 record. They today, they continued their run by outlasting Duke in a classic ACC final matchup, winning 72-63 and taking home the program's first conference title since 1976. In front of a loud and pro-UVA crowd in Greensboro, the Hoos cut down the nets for the second times this year. Now, UVA awaits its NCAA seeding, which will be announced on tonight's 6 PM Selection Show.
With both teams playing their third game in as many days, Duke and Virginia competed in an intense, well-played, and closely-contested championship game. UVA drew first blood, using suffocating defense to open up a 13-4 lead, but the Hoos wouldn't see a margin like that again until the game's final seconds. The Hoos grew stagnant on offense, and the Blue Devils crawled back, going into the break trailing UVA 28-25.
For 15 minutes in the second half, neither team led by more than 3 points. While UVA held the lead for much of the period, Jabari Parker and the Blue Devils wouldn't go away. One can't say enough about Akil Mitchell's defense on Parker; he's the best defender in the ACC, and it was apparent tonight. Parker got going in the second half, usually when he went against Gill and/or Tobey, and finished with 23 points, but needed 24 field goal attempts to get there. While Akil guarded him, Jabari was just 5 of 17. Rasheed Sulaimon, who buried the Hoos in the teams' first matchup in Durham, had just 2 points on 1-6 shooting. The Wahoo defense was intense and motivated from start to finish, and wouldn't allow Duke to go on a run.
Holding the vaunted Duke offense to 1.06 PPP is an impressive feat. UVA did it by holding Duke down to a 44.4% eFG% and keeping them from the free-throw line. Though Duke did manage to rebound 34% of their own misses, UVA outperformed them on the offensive glass, finishing with a 38% OReb%.
Finally, as the clock moved under 5 minutes, UVA managed to put some distance between the teams. Mitchell tapped in a Joe Harris miss to extend the lead to 4 with five minutes to play. A minute later, Anthony Gill got to the line and made both free-throws to bring it to 6. Gill scored 12 points on the game, with 10 coming from the free-throw line, but those came on 17 attempts. The Hoos made just 25 of 38 FTs overall, but their ability to get to the line against a reaching Duke defense was key; UVA played a much cleaner defensive game, allowing just 11 Duke free-throws.
With the lead at 4 points, Joe Harris found himself wide open on a UVA fast break, and drilled a three-pointer. When Quinn Cook answered with a three of his own, Malcolm Brogdon made a lay-up, then made free-throws down the stretch to seal the title. Two of the attempts were earned after a Sulaimon technical foul; it was Duke's second T of the game, with Coach K earning one late in the first half.
Brogdon's season-high 23 points led the Hoos; after scoring between 10 and 19 points in each game during the regular season, he had just 6 against FSU and broke the 20-point barrier today. Joe Harris had 15 on 5-11 shooting, and Gill added 12 more, 10 from the line. Mike Tobey had 8, making three buckets in the game's opening minutes. And Akil Mitchell, the game's defensive MVP, also added 7 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Calling Mitchell "active" is a comical understatement; he is absolutely vital to everything this team does. Perrantes was the final Hoo to make the scoring, adding 7 points.
Joe Harris was named the ACC Tournament MVP, as he had not only an efficient three games, but was assertive as well. Brogdon joined him on the tournament's first-team, with Gill and Mitchell named to second-team.
While UVA looks to have a number 2 seed, and a first round game in Raleigh, locked down, the team does have an outside-chance at the final #1 seed. Those odds will grow larger if Michigan State takes down Michigan in the B1G Championship.
We'll have plenty of coverage here in the next few hours, as we'll live-blog the NCAA Selection Show, and break down the bracket as soon as it's released. Until then, enjoy the win. Go Hoos!
Here's a view from the court after the game, from the Daily Progress's Whitey Reid: