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Virginia surges past Syracuse 59-47 to win ACC regular season title

For the second year in a row, the Wahoos clinched the outright conference title by beating Syracuse

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers overcame a brutal start to beat Syracuse 59-47 on the road to improve to 28-1 (16-1 ACC) and win their second consecutive ACC regular season title.

GAME STATS: Virginia Syracuse
Points Per Possession 1.00 .79
Effective FG% 51.9% 42.6%
Offensive Rebound % 53.8% 18.8%
Turnover % 33.8% 22.0%
FTA/FGA 15.4 27.7

Most Wahoo fans would not have expected the post-game jubilation after the way UVA started the game offensively.  Just under 14 minutes into the game, the Hoos trailed 13-2 and looked completely mystified against the Syracuse zone.  UVA had turned the ball over 10 times and shot 1-11 from the field, and the national media was whipping itself into a frenzy about how the team was ruining college basketball.

An Evan Nolte three-pointer turned the tide, as UVA would go on to score 38 points over the next 11:32 of the game, including a stretch spanning both halves where they scored on 14 consecutive possessions.

By halftime, UVA somehow held a 23-20 lead.  And three minutes into the second half, the Hoos led by double-digits. It was a remarkable turnaround, keyed by a sudden desire to take care of the ball (after losing the ball 10 times in 14 minutes, UVA played turnover-free basketball for the next 10), dominance on the boards, and some cold-blooded shooting.

The team must have realized that turning the ball over against a team that struggles on the defensive boards like Syracuse is particularly unwise, and got more aggressive shooting the ball and getting to the basket.  If they missed, guys like Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill cleaned it up.  Virginia rebounded 53% of their own misses (to Syracuse's 19%), as Gill pulled in 7 boards, which he converted into a game-high 17 points on 8-11 shooting, and Tobey and Aktins pulled in 4 apiece.

The Hoos made 6 of their 17 three-point attempts but also rebounded 7 of those 11 misses. It was nice to see Nolte drill 2 of 3. Brogdon and Perrantes each went 2-6 from long range, but made both of their buckets during UVA's 38-14 mid-game run.

UVA's 34% turnover rate, though it dramatically improved after the disastrous start, is a pretty eye-opening number, about 2 and a half times the team's average during conference games.  Brogdon had 7 (!!) of the team's 20 turnovers. Perrantes was not at fault; he had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists to just one turnover.

Hats off as usual to the defense, which kept the deficit manageable during the opening swoon and didn't let the Orange make a run of their own.  Atkins and co. did all they could to keep the dangerous Rakeem Christmas, who finished with 10 on 4-9 shooting, as quiet as possible on his senior night, and the team silenced Michael Gbinije, who scored 8 but shot 2-11 from the field and turned it over 5 times.

Next up, UVA finishes the regular season at Louisville on Saturday at 6:30 PM.  We'll wait to hear news about Justin Anderson, who should be getting close to returning to the court.