'Hoos Win ACC Regular Season Championship; Beat Syracuse 75-56
The #12 UVa men's basketball team beat #4 Syracuse 75-56 Saturday afternoon to win its first outright ACC regular season championship since 1981.
The Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1 ACC) won their only previous regular season conference title 33 years ago - when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore.
Malcolm Brogdon scored eight of his 19 points during a decisive second-half run against the Orange, and Virginia clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Senior Joe Harris says, "For the most part in the 2nd half, we made everything tough on them. We did a great job of eliminating second chance opportunities. We really did a good job of rebounding the ball, and not letting them get a second chance."
Head coach Tony Bennett adds, "We came in and said, 'If we're going to have a chance at this, win it with the defense. Let's stop giving them anything, and I want to see you lay it out. We're a defensive team.'"
Akil Mitchell had 12 points and nine rebounds on Senior Night, while Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson scored 11 each for UVa.
The victory is the Wahoos 13th in a row, and the final buzzer brought hundreds of fans streaming onto the court.
Mitchell says, "It was great. They've been behind us for four years, and even longer than that. To have them out there, to cut down the nets on Senior Night, after everything we've been through, after all of this, it's great. It's amazing."
Head coach Tony Bennett said, "I took a moment to give thanks because I can remember when we had a bigger group but those guys came in and we just painted a picture to them and the vision was come help us turn this program around. When you're a part of turning something around it's really special. That was the vision and that was what Joe remembered. He said I don't care this year if I'm not getting as many shots. I just want to win; I want to turn this program around and I'll get my chances later. For Akil and Joe and certainly Thomas, I'm very, very excited for them."
The Cavaliers celebrated the big win by cutting down the nets as the ACC regular season champion.
"We went out and cut down the nets, but I said celebrate this but there still is a lot of basketball left," says Bennett. "Keep this in perspective. We will celebrate this when the time is right but this is about us. Now we've got a little time to get better and tighten some things up. But, I think the depth this year and the balance is what's different. It's not just Joe [Harris] as you saw. Malcolm [Brogdon] was in the high post, Justin [Anderson], Mike [Tobey], there are different guys at different times and you need that as physical as the game is. I don't take anything for granted. I know you have to be ready for anybody. But, hopefully we keep it moving."
Virginia is 16-1 in the ACC after its 13th win in a row.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim says, "I've thought for a couple of weeks that they've been by far the best team in the ACC. You look at the scores, how they've dominated people. This is the first time all year that we were out of the game in the last five minutes of the game."
Tyler Ennis and C.J. Fair scored 13 each for the Orange (26-3, 13-3), who lost for the third time in four games.
Syracuse played much of the game without Jerami Grant, who was suffering from a sore back.
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