GREENBSORO N.C. — For the second consecutive game, No. 2 seed Virginia (25-6) outscored its opponent in both halves at the ACC Tournament, this time downing Clemson 76-56 in Friday’s semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. The Cavaliers will face No. 4 seed Duke in tomorrow’s finals at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
Three Cavaliers in Jayden Gardner (23 points, 12 rebounds), Armaan Franklin (16 points, 6-14 FG) and Kihei Clark (13 points, 3-6 3FG) scored in double figures for the Hoos. Gardner’s performance marked his second double-double of the tournament and fifth of the season.
With the win, the Cavaliers improved to 8-1 against Clemson in ACC Tournament history, including 4-0 in semifinal contests. Virginia also tallied its 25th win of the season, marking Tony Bennett’s sixth 25-win season as UVA head coach. Bennett also improved to 16-4 all-time against the Tigers.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Virginia led for the final 14:21 of the opening half – and ultimately the remainder of the contest – and closed out the period on an 8-0 run, holding the Tigers scoreless for the last 4:00 of game time. The Cavaliers clung to a 37-25 lead at the break, its largest lead of the half. For the fourth consecutive game, UVA held its opponent to 25 points or less in the opening period.
The Cavaliers shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and received 10 points from its bench, including Taine Murray’s second made 3-pointer of the season at the 8:42 mark. In a physical matchup, Virginia got the best of the Tigers down low in the first half as the Cavaliers outscored Clemson 22-8 in the paint and won the rebounding margin, 22-14.
Franklin and Gardner led the Hoos at the break with nine points each.
UVA’s eight unanswered points to close out the first half ultimately turned into a 21-2 run as the Cavaliers scored 13 of the first 15 points of the second period. Virginia extended its lead to as much as 23 points [52-29] with 13:45 to play. A 5-0 Clemson run toward the end of the game, cut the UVA lead to 14 points [65-51] with 4:43 to play, but that was as close as the Tigers would get the rest of the way. Both teams emptied out their bench in the last two minutes of the contest. Clemson connected on just one of its last 11 attempts from the field.
Gardner scored 14 of his 23 points in the second frame, while Clark and Franklin added eight and seven points, respectively.
THE GAME BALL GOES TO:
Jayden Gardner. Gardner posted his second consecutive double-double in the tournament after finishing Friday’s contest with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Last night in the Cavaliers’ 68-59 win over North Carolina, Gardner scored 17 points and tallied 10 rebounds. Friday’s double-double also marked the 41st of his career for the Wake Forest, North Carolina native.
Virginia advances to Saturday’s championship game, which marks the program’s 10th ACC Tournament finals appearance, as the Cavaliers will face No. 4 seed Duke (25-8). Tipoff from Greensboro Coliseum Complex is set for 8:30 p.m. on ESPN. ACC Tournament Central
UVA and the Blue Devils squared off in the regular season at John Paul Jones Arena on Feb. 11, when the Cavaliers won 69-62 in their only overtime contest of the season.