London Perrantes

AP Photo/Steve Helber

No. 4 Virginia beats No. 11 Miami to reach ACC title game

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WASHINGTON (AP) Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Malcolm Brogdon scored 24 points and No. 4 Virginia beat 11th-ranked Miami 73-68 Friday night to set up a showdown with North Carolina in the conference title game.

Virginia (26-6) and No. 7 UNC could each become NCAA Tournament No. 1 seeds after impressive showings this week. Against Miami (25-7), the Cavaliers led wire-to-wire to the delight of the crowd that made Verizon Center feel like a home game.

Ja’Quan Newton had 19 points off the bench to lead Miami.

Beginning with Brogdon’s 3-pointer 48 seconds in, Virginia led the entire first half. The Cavaliers went up by as many as 11 as eight different players scored but watched as Miami went on a 6-0 run to end the half and cut the margin to five.

Facing the same kind of hostile environment as Thursday night against Virginia Tech, Miami cut it as close as three points. A series of turnovers stunted the comeback bid, and Brogdon went to work scoring and playmaking.

With help from Marial Shayok (10 points) and London Perrantes (11 points), Virginia pulled away to lead by 13 with 3:10 left. The Hurricanes must now turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament, where they’re expected to be a high seed.

UNC routed Notre Dame Friday to make it to the title game. Virginia won the teams’ only meeting Feb. 27 in Charlottesville. The game features the top two seeds after the top four reached the semifinals.

“The ACC is a great conference,” UNC forward Justin Jackson said. “So at the end of the day, that’s what you expect in the championship game: to have two really good teams.”

TIP-INS

Miami: Ivan Cruz Uceda did not play in the quarterfinal victory because of Virginia Tech’s speed, according to coach Jim Larranaga, who said the big forward would be a “major player” against Virginia. Cruz Uceda scored all eight of his points in the first half. … Senior guard Sheldon McClellan fouled out with 46.2 seconds left. He finished with 15 points on 5 of 11 shooting.

Virginia: Brogdon went 10 of 11 from the free throw line. … Virginia reached the ACC final for the sixth time in school history. … Last won the conference tournament in 2014. … The last time Virginia played in a game where each team shot over 50 percent was Dec. 7, 2013, against Green Bay.

UP NEXT

Virginiai: Faces seventh-ranked North Carolina for the conference title Saturday.

Miami: NCAA Tournament.

No. 9 Virginia pulls away from Pitt 64-50

AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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PITTSBURGH (AP) Malcolm Brogdon scored 21 points and No. 9 Virginia pulled away from Pittsburgh in the second half of a 64-50 victory on Saturday.

London Perrantes added 14 for the Cavaliers (19-4, 8-3 ACC), who have won six straight and remain unbeaten (4-0) against the Panthers since Pitt moved to the ACC in 2013. Virginia took control after the Panthers tied it early in the second half, knocking down three straight 3-pointers during a game-turning 12-0 run.

Jamel Artis led Pitt (17-5, 6-4) with 17 points and Michael Young had 12 points and 10 rebounds but the Panthers again struggled to keep up with a quality opponent. All five of Pitt’s losses have come by at least 13 points.

Virginia outscored the Panthers 28-14 in the paint and converted 11 Pitt turnovers into 20 points the other way.

The Cavaliers have hit their stride following a bumpy stretch in early January that included consecutive losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. They’ve done it by getting back to what they do well -controlling the pace and hitting open shots.

It’s a formula that Pitt used for years to become a consistent contender in the Big East, one they’ve largely abandoned since joining the ACC. The Panthers have been steady if unspectacular this winter, with coach Jamie Dixon wondered how they’d won six of their first nine games in the league despite a notable lack of size in the middle and a toughness deficit. He addressed it by burying the whistle in practice and challenging his players to man up.

Needing a quality win to bolster an otherwise nondescript resume, Pitt couldn’t quite handle the Cavaliers.

Brogdon went off early, scoring 14 points in the first 20 minutes during a taut and entertaining back-and-forth with Young and Artis.

When Sheldon Jeter’s putback knotted the game at 31 a minute into the second half, the raucous black-clad Pitt student section came to life.

Just as abruptly, the Cavaliers took over. Brogdon hit a 3-pointer and Devon Hall followed with one of his own at the end of a possession that perfectly encapsulated what Virginia does so well. Perrantes had the ball on the wing in transition and could have taken a wide open 3-pointer. Instead, the ACC’s leading 3-point shooter pulled the ball down and the Cavaliers ran their offense to get Hall a wide-open 23-footer that he calmly drilled. Perrantes followed with a 3 of his own on Virginia’s next trip and when Hall hit an acrobatic lay-up while getting fouled, the ensuing free throw put Virginia up 43-31.

Pitt never got closer than nine the rest of the way as the Cavaliers cruised late in the game.

TIP-INS

Virginia: The Cavaliers shot 48 percent (24 of 50) from the floor and 9 of 16 from 3-point range. … Virginia has outscored opponents in 20 of its 23 games.

Pitt: The Panthers shot 39 percent (18 of 41) and made just 2 of 13 3-pointers. … Senior point guard James Robinson was held scoreless on 0 for 7 shooting.

UP NEXT:

Virginia: Hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday

Pitt: Travels to No. 2 North Carolina on Tuesday.

No. 13 Virginia’s road struggles continue in loss at Florida State

Associated Press
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No. 13 Virginia has now played three road games in ACC play. Their record in those games: 0-3, with the most recent loss coming in Tallahassee Sunday night by the final score of 69-62.

Of course winning on the road is tough, especially in a league as deep as the ACC. But it’s been a familiar theme for the Cavaliers this season, and Sunday’s game turned on two important developments without just over four minutes of game time of each other.

The first play was Florida State guard Malik Beasley’s three-pointer at the end of the first half. Prior to that shot the freshman, who finished with 17 points, had yet to score a point in the game. The play served as a spark for Beasley, who’s scored in double figures in every game he’s played in this season. From that point on Beasley was able to get better looks, as he scored 14 second-half points and did not miss a shot from the field (4-for-4) or from the foul line (4-for-4) in the second stanza.

That seemed to spark Florida State as a whole, as they shot 63.2 percent from the field and avraged 1.33 points per possession. A key reason for that was the second major turning point in the game, as Anthony Gill headed to the bench with 15:47 remaining after picking up his third foul.

Virginia’s still a good defensive team by “normal” standards, but as it’s been discussed many times before they have yet to find a front court player capable of filling the role of last year’s ACC Defensive Player of the Year Darion Atkins. In 2014-15 Gill was effectively the “Robin” to Atkins’ “Batman” in the Virginia front court defensively, and that partnership was one of the reasons why they finished the season ranked tops in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers.

With Atkins gone Gill’s become Batman, but no Robin has emerged for Tony Bennett. Hence the rotating of players such as Jack Salt (five starts), Mike Tobey (six starts) and Isaiah Wilkins (five starts) into the starting role, but none have managed to truly make that spot theirs from a defensive standpoint. That impacts pick and roll coverages, an area in which Atkins was elite a season ago, not only for the players in the action but those in weak side positions as well.

But that hasn’t been the only issue for Virginia, which has also made a habit of going cold offensively this season. The Cavaliers experienced two different stretches in the second half of three-plus minutes without a point, with Florida State outscoring them 17-0 during those points in the action. Virginia shot 35.7 percent from the field in the second half, and with the lack of consistency beyond Gill, London Perrantes and Malcolm Brogdon they can ill-afford an off night from one of their big three.

Brogdon scored ten points on 4-for-17 shooting and Perrantes needed 13 shots (making four) to score his 19 points. It’s become quite clear that Virginia will have a tougher time pulling out wins when that happens this season than they did in each of the last two seasons.

The good news for Virginia is that they’ve yet to play North Carolina, which is now three games ahead of the Cavaliers in the loss column, so there’s a direct opportunity to gain ground down the line (February 27 to be exact). But given the offensive lulls and a defense that, while good, isn’t at the level it reached in each of the last two seasons, their chances of winning a third straight ACC regular season crown are extremely slim at this point.

No. 13 Virginia snaps two-game losing skid with strong second half vs. No. 8 Miami

(AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)
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London Perrantes, Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill scored 33 of Virginia’s 39 second half points as the No. 13 Cavaliers snapped a two-game losing streak against No. 8 Miami, 66-58.

Brogdon led the way for the Wahoos, finishing with 20 points, while Gill added 15 points, eight boards and three assists and Perrantes scored all 13 of his points in the second half.

Virginia had fallen to 1-2 in the ACC after losses at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech last week, and on paper, Miami is the kind of team that can give this iteration of Tony Bennett’s program trouble. Virginia has had issues guarding ball-screen actions this season, and this Miami team is built around a trio of dynamic guards that thrive in … ball-screen actions.

And for the most part, Virginia won that battle, as they were able to slow down Miami’s guards. Angel Rodriguez finished with 17 points and three assists without a turnover, but much of that damage was done down the stretch as the Hurricanes were scrapping to get back into it; in other words, he didn’t have control over this game like his stat-line might say he did. Sheldon McClellan finished with just 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Ja’Quan Newtown and Davon Reed were just OK while the likes of Gill and Mike Tobey rendered Miami’s big men more or less ineffective.

But if we’re being frank, outside of a slow start from the Hurricanes, this was not exactly a vintage Virginia defensive performance. They gave up 58 points on 57 possessions, which is slightly worse than their season average and a nowhere near what peak-Virginia was able to do last season. I’m done belaboring the point, but the Cavaliers cannot simply rely on their defense to win them games this season.

No, they won this game because their studs played like studs, particularly in the second half. Brogdon was breaking down Miami’s defense off the dribble and on cuts to the rim. Gill — and Mike Tobey, who had 12 points and seven boards — was getting to the offensive glass and scoring in the post. Perrantes made big plays and big shots late in the game.

And if you’re a Virginia fan, you might as well get used to this. It’s not changing.

Their style lends itself to playing in close games, and the theme this season has been that when those close games are played at home, they make the plays they need to in order to win. When they’re played on the road, Virginia hasn’t been as “clutch”.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom-line is this: Virginia just picked up a win over a legitimate top ten team and ACC title contender in the Hurricanes.

Semantic and details aside, that is always a good thing.

No. 5 Virginia beats Notre Dame 77-66 for 11th straight win

Associated Press
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Pound it inside to the big men. Wait for the defense to sage, and then beat them over the top.

Virginia had both formulas working Saturday night as they shot 57 percent and used a 21-4 first-half run to cruise to their 11th consecutive victory, leaving Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey in a complimentary mood.

“Today was kind of men among boys,” he said after the Cavaliers’ 77-66 victory that wasn’t nearly that close. “Any time we tried to make a little bit of a run and get some hope, they kind of squelched it.”

Anthony Gill scored seven of his 14 first-half points during the big early run, and Malcolm Brogdon opened the second half with a pair of 3-pointers from the same spot. Virginia had one first-half 3-pointer.

“I was surprised they didn’t close out,” Brogdon said of his first 3 at the 19:17 mark, when the defense suddenly seemed to be daring the Cavaliers’ leading scorer to shoot. “I had a wide open look. I kind of hesitated a little bit and then just let it go because they were sagging and they backed off a little bit.”

Less than a minute later, Brogdon bagged another one from the same spot.

Brogdon led Virginia (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) with 24 points, Gill had 21 and Mike Tobey had his second straight big game off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds. The 7-foot senior, coming off a career-high 16 points in a victory against Oakland, made 5 of 9 shots and added two blocks and an assist.

In the four games before Virginia beat Oakland, Tobey totaled six points and seven rebounds.

“That’s what we’re going to need from him throughout the season,” Gill said. “He’s a great player, has a soft touch around the basket and takes up a lot of space on defense. When his mind is right, he can be a really effective player for the team and help us get to the next level.”

Demetrius Jackson led the Fighting Irish (9-4, 0-1) with 18 points. Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson each added 14, and Brey said he was thrilled to be finished with the Cavaliers, at least in the regular season.

“They’re so secure with who they are and they never waver,” he said. “I use the phrase – their game is tight on both ends. They’re the tightest in the league and maybe in the country on both ends of the floor.”

The Cavaliers’ 12th straight victory at home came as Virginia launched its bid to become the first team since Duke from 1997-2000 to win three consecutive outright ACC championships.

Virginia made it look easy once the Irish stopped making contested shots.

Notre Dame made its first four shots, all by different players, and then missed 10 of 12 as Virginia turned an 8-4 deficit into a 25-12 lead. The Cavaliers built their lead as high as 13 points three times in the first half.

It was 36-24 at halftime, and the closest the Irish came thereafter was 36-26 on Colson’s basket to open the second half. Brogdon scored Virginia’s first eight points, including the two early 3-pointers, then fed London Perrantes for another 3 in the right corner for a 47-30 lead, the Cavaliers’ biggest to that point.

Later, two free throws and a three-point play by Tobey, who was coming off a career-best 16 points against Oakland, and a free throw by Gill capped 10-2 burst that pushed the margin to a game-high 59-40.

QUOTABLE:

“Tobey and Gill, they’re just really good, man. They’re just men. They’re men. When do they graduate?” – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

TIP-INS:

Notre Dame: Coach Mike Brey fell to 0-7 in his career against Virginia. … The Cavaliers were the first ranked opponent the Irish have played this season.

Virginia: Coach Tony Bennett improved to 5-0 against Notre Dame is his career, including an NCAA tournament victory in 2008 while at Washington State. … Brogdon (16.2 ppg) started the day having missed all 13 of his 2-point shots in his last two games, and 17 of 18 in his last three. He ended the drought with a driving left hand layup at the 13:22 mark of the first half.

UP NEXT:

Notre Dame: is at Boston College on Thursday night.

Virginia: is at Virginia Tech on Monday night.

Follow Hank on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/hankkurzjr

The AP college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

VIDEO: More London Perrantes heroics, but are they overshadowing concerns about Virginia?

(AP Photo/Mic Smith)
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He did it again, man.

For the third straight game, Virginia point guard London Perrantes buried a dagger late to lock up a win for the Cavaliers.

Against No. 19 West Virginia two weeks ago, Perrantes scored 13 points in the second half, including three straight threes as Virginia pulled away from the Mountaineers. On Saturday, Perrantes scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half, hitting three momentum-changing threes late in the game to help the ‘Hoos hold off No. 17 Villanova.

Tuesday night was the best yet, though.

Because it was the game-winner:

That three gave Virginia their first lead in overtime, capping a comeback from 62-57 down in the final minute as No. 5 Virginia knocked off Cal, 63-62. Perrantes finished with 10 points and six assists, while Malcolm Brogdon added 10 points and Anthony Gill led the way with 17.

[RELATED: Perrantes’ clutch play the key for Virginia’s season]

The issue here, however, is that Virginia, for the third game in a row, got off to a dreadful start. They shot 4-for-22 from the floor in a first half where they mustered all of 20 points, falling behind by as much as 11 points early in the second half; 11 points doesn’t sound like much, but at the pace that Virginia plays, 11 feels like 20.

They’ve been bailed out by the play of their big three — Perrantes, Brogdon and Gill — in the second half of games. There’s no questioning the ability of those three, but it’s a worrisome and frustrating trend that Virginia would do well to break by the start of ACC play next week.

[RELATED: What’s wrong with Virginia defensively this season?]

On the other side of the ball, this is going to be a dreadfully disappointing loss for Cal, who entered the season as a top 15 team and the favorite in the Pac-12 before losing a pair of games at a tournament in Las Vegas that dropped them out of the discussion. They should have won this game, and that is going to sting, particularly when it comes time to seed teams for the NCAA tournament.

That said, Cal should have beaten Virginia at Virginia. Maybe this team is starting to put it all together, and if they are, the Pac-12 is wide open enough that that could immediately vault them back into the league title discussion.