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ACC CHAMPIONS!!! Virginia downs Duke to take conference crown


John David Mercer-USA TODAY Spor

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: