March 10, 2018
NEW YORK (AP) Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and No. 1 Virginia completed one of the most successful seasons in the storied history of Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, beating No. 12 North Carolina 71-63 in the tournament championship game Saturday night to finish 20-1 against league competition.
The top-seeded Cavaliers (31-2) set a school record for victories and won the ACC Tournament for the second time in five seasons under coach Tony Bennett, and third time overall. With plenty of their fans packing Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Cavaliers beat sixth-seeded North Carolina (25-10) for the second time this season and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Tar Heels in ACC Tournament play.
Guy, the tournament MVP, scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and Hall added 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. Ty Jerome had 12 points, six assists and six rebounds for Virginia, which will certainly enter the NCAA Tournament as the top overall seed.
Not bad for a bunch that started the season unranked and was picked to finish sixth in the ACC. With no one-and-dones and no lock NBA lottery picks, the Cavaliers dominated the ACC with efficiency and tenacity. They went 17-1 in the regular season, the one loss by one point in overtime, and finished in first by four games.
”This is one of the most connected groups I’ve ever coached,” Bennett said.
Virginia held the Tar Heels scoreless for five minutes and took a 58-49 lead on De’Andre Hunter’s baseline fadeaway with 3:32 left. North Carolina snapped the drought with a 3-pointer by Luke Maye, who scored 20, but Jerome nailed a 3 out of a timeout to restore the nine-point lead.
UNC, playing in its record 35th ACC championship game, never got closer than five again as Virginia closed it out from the free-throw line. The Tar Heels played about as well as any team has this season against the best defensive team in the country, shooting 40 percent and committing only nine turnovers. In the regular season, the Tar Heels managed only 49 points and 29 percent shooting, while committing 19 turnovers in a loss at Virginia.
The Cavaliers played defense with their offense, turning the ball over just four times and allowing the fast-paced Tar Heels just two fast-break points.
North Carolina: UNC won three games in four days in Brooklyn and might have played its way into a high enough seed – probably a No. 2 – to open the NCAAs in Charlotte. The Tar Heels are 33-1 in NCCA games played in their home state.
Virginia: In nine seasons in Charlottesville, Bennett has built one of the most successful programs in the country on a foundation of slow-paced but precise offense and sound and suffocating defense. When he climbed the ladder to cut down the last piece of string holding up the nets at Barclays, Virginia fans filled the arena with chants of ”To-ny! To-ny!”
The ACC Tournament heads back to North Carolina after a two-year stint in New York City, but expect it to be back sooner rather than later. Maybe even as soon as 2022, when the arena is free and the ACC has no plans booked.
Both teams will head home and find out their NCAA Tournament destinations.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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