GREENBSORO N.C. — No. 2 seed Virginia (24-6) outscored No. 7 seed North Carolina (19-13) in both halves of Thursday’s ACC Tournament quarterfinals matchup at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex as the Cavaliers advanced to Friday’s semifinals with their 68-59 victory over the Tar Heels.
With the win, Virginia has advanced to the ACC Tournament semifinals in four of the last five years.
Virginia shot 49 percent from the field, including 58 in the second half, and scored 28 points in the paint. UNC shot just 36 percent in Thursday’s contest and only knocked down eight its 27 attempts from behind the arc.
Three Cavaliers in Jayden Gardner (17 points, 10 rebounds), Reece Beekman (15 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals) and Armaan Franklin (14 points, 6-13 FG) all scored in double figures.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Virginia got off to a slow start, connecting on just one of its first seven attempts from the field. After UNC knocked down the first shot of the game, the Cavaliers trailed for the next 11 minutes until an 11-0 UVA run flipped the score. The run was sparked by a Beekman steal and made layup in transition. On the next possession, Isaac McKneely (6 points 2-4 3FG) drained a 3 to put the Hoos up, 14-13. Beekman came up with yet another steal, which he once again finished in transition to continue to swing momentum UVA’s way. The UVA scoring spree was capped by a Francisco Caffaro (4 points 2-2 FG) slam on a dish from Beekman. Beekman continued to put pressure on the UNC defense as his only 3-pointer of the night found the bottom of the net to deliver the Cavaliers’ largest lead of the half, 23-15, with 4:24 to play in the opening period.
After UVA grasped its eight-point lead, UNC’s next three scores to close out the half were from behind the arc. The Tar Heels shrank the UVA lead to just one 25-24 with 21 seconds remaining, prompting the Cavaliers to signal for time. Coming out of the timeout, UNC came up with a defensive stop to trail by one at the half.
The Tar Heels shot 40 percent from behind the arc in the first half, while UVA shot just 18 percent from deep. Virginia converted six UNC turnovers into nine points, while the Tar Heels failed to score a single point off UVA’s pair of turnovers.
Beekman led the Cavaliers at the half with 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting.
Coming out of the intermission, Gardner knocked down his first three shot attempts to kick off the second half. A dunk by Kadin Shedrick (4 points, 5 blocks) and another McKneely made 3 gave the Cavaliers their largest lead of the game, 49-39, with 10:09 to play. UNC would cut it back to a one-score game twice before a 9-0 UVA scoring run with under 2:00 to go erased all hope for the Tar Heels. Down the stretch, the Cavaliers made nine of their last 10 free throws of the game.
Gardner scored 13 of his 17 total points in the second stanza.
The Tar Heels went 4-for-17 from behind the arc in the final 20 minutes of play. Virginia held UNC’s Armando Bacot to just four points on two made field goals.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO:
Reece Beekman. Beekman set the tone early, scoring 11 of his 15 total points in the first half. His 15 points also marked his first double-digit scoring outing in his last five games. Beekman also added three rebounds, five assists and five steals. His lone made 3-pointer of the night in the first half gave UVA its then-largest lead of the game [23-15]. Beekman’s ability to create momentum-swinging plays for UVA was on full display numerous times, including steals that led to transition layups and assists on Cavalier wide-open dunks.
Virginia advances to Friday’s semifinals and awaits the winner of Thursday’s nightcap between No. 3 seed Clemson (16-8, 10-6 ACC) and No. 6 seed NC State (23-9, 12-8 ACC), which tips off from Greensboro Coliseum Complex at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. Virginia’s semifinals matchup on Friday is set for 9:30 p.m. on ESPN. ACC Tournament Central