The Washington Post

Cavs march past Tigers and into ACC title game



GREENSBORO, N.C. — Chants of “U-V-A, U-V-A” reverberat­ed throughout Greensboro Coliseum early in the second half Friday night, with supporters of the second-seeded Virginia men’s basketball team urging the Cavaliers to continue a decisive surge against No. 3 seed Clemson in the ACC tournament semifinals.

Forward Jayden Gardner was determined to oblige, collecting a lob pass from Kihei Clark and sinking a heavily contested reverse layup that grew the lead to 18 points on the way to a 76-56 triumph. The victory sent the Cavaliers to their 10th ACC tournament final, the past four under Coach Tony Bennett.

Virginia (25- 6) takes a fourgame winning streak into Saturday night’s championsh­ip game against No. 4 seed Duke, which dispatched top seed Miami, 8578, in the evening’s first semifinal. The Cavaliers will be seeking their fourth ACC tournament championsh­ip and third under Bennett.

“Excited to get to the finals. I think we’re at our best when we just sort of focus on quality, whether it’s a good practice, a good possession, and just all that [other] stuff will take care of itself,” Bennett said. “Duke’s playing very good basketball. I think our guys are too, so it’ ll be for a conference tournament championsh­ip, and thankful obviously we got a share of the regular season, so it’s a great opportunit­y to just keep trying to play that quality.”

Gardner led the Cavaliers to a third consecutiv­e victory over the Tigers (23-10) with 23 points on 10-for-15 shooting with 12 rebounds and two assists. Senior guard Armaan Franklin added 16 points, and Clark, a fifth-year guard, chipped in 13 points for Virginia’s 14th win in the teams’ past 15 meetings.

Gardner, a fifth-year forward and North Carolina native who transferre­d to Virginia from East Carolina, either scored or assisted on 10 points during a 14-0 run bridging the halves that delivered the knockout blow. The Cavaliers’ record against Clemson in the ACC tournament improved to 8-1.

Virginia controlled the interior offensivel­y, scoring 40 points in the paint and shooting 51 percent from the field overall. The Cavaliers committed six turnovers — making their 11th game in a row in the single digits — while stifling the typically highscorin­g Tigers, who shot just 38 percent and committed a dozen turnovers.

Clemson entered averaging 76.2 points, which ranks fourth in the ACC. Hunter Tyson paced the Tigers with 15 points, making 4 of 8 three-pointers, and Brevin Galloway added 12 points. PJ Hall, who came in tied for the team lead in scoring, finished with 13 points on 4-for-13 shooting.

An 8-0 run to close the first half pushed Virginia’s advantage to 37-35 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 4 of 5 field goals, all in the paint, during that span and held Clemson scoreless for the final four minutes after the Tigers had trimmed an eight-point deficit in half.

Freshman wing Ryan Dunn capped the half by chasing down Galloway and blocking his layup attempt from behind in a sequence that drew hearty applause from Virginia’s bench.

Here’s what else to know about Virginia’s win:

Liberal substituti­ons

With starting forward Ben Vander Plas out for the season after suffering a fractured right hand during practice Wednesday, Bennett used a rotation of nine players, including a second consecutiv­e start for 7-foot-1 Argentine forward-center Francisco Caffaro.

But Kadin Shedrick (eight points, seven rebounds) soon replaced Caffaro when the redshirt senior picked up an early foul.

Shedrick shined in the quarterfin­als Thursday night with a season-high five blocks to help spark a 68-59 win against seventh-seeded North Carolina.

Bennett also turned to reserve guard Taine Murray for valuable minutes in the first half. The sophomore from New Zealand almost immediatel­y sank a threepoint­er to give the Cavaliers a 22-15 lead with 8:42 to play in the first half. It was his second threepoint­er this season.

Up next

The Cavaliers are aiming for two-game sweep of Duke when the teams meet Saturday, with tip-off set for 8:30 p.m. Virginia outlasted the Blue Devils in overtime, 69-62, during their regular season meeting Feb. 11 at John Paul Jones Arena.

The game went to overtime after officials overturned a foul call assessed to Virginia at the regulation buzzer, negating what could have been winning free throws for Duke freshman sensation Kyle Filipowski.

 ?? GRANT Halverson/getty IMAGES ?? Jayden Gardner scored a game-high 23 points to power the Cavaliers into Saturday’s ACC title game.
GRANT Halverson/getty IMAGES Jayden Gardner scored a game-high 23 points to power the Cavaliers into Saturday’s ACC title game.

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