Virginia locks up ACC with win over Orange

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Virginia clinched the regular-season ACC title with a win over Syracuse on Saturday.The Virginia Cavaliers locked up their first outright ACC regular-season championship since the 1980-81 season with its 75-56 win over the fourth-ranked Syracuse. It’s just the second outright regular-season ACC championship for the Cavaliers in school history.

Cavalier Attitude
Final 13:54 of Game

Virginia trailed by one at the half, but outscored Syracuse 48-28 in the second half. Virginia especially pulled away over the final 13:54, outscoring the Orange 35-16. In that span, the Cavaliers held Syracuse to 4-22 shooting from the field, 0-10 from 3-point range.

Virginia is known for their defensive prowess, it entered the game allowing a Division I-best 54.7 points per game, but it was an adjustment on the offensive end that spurred the Cavaliers to this victory.

In the first half, Virginia had problems scoring from outside, but excelled when pounding the ball inside. The Cavaliers went 10-19 from the paint in the first half, with 68 percent of their field goal attempts coming from the paint.

However, in that first half, Virginia struggled against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense when they were unable to get inside. On possessions that didn’t include a touch in the paint against the zone, Virginia scored just five points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Virginia Offense vs Syracuse Zone
Without a Paint Touch

Syracuse responded by clogging the paint defensively in the second half, but Virginia responded by moving their offense outside, with 24 second-half points on possessions without a touch in the paint against the zone, including six 3-pointers.

Unlike Virginia, the Orange could not score from outside, leading to the loss. Syracuse shot just 24 percent from outside the paint in the game, including under 18 percent in the second half. The Orange missed their final 13 shots from outside the paint.

The Orange defense also forced just a single turnover in the second half, after forcing five in the first half.

Although unlikely to move into discussion for a No. 1 seed based on Saturday’s win alone, Virginia has made an argument for being ranked among the top-four team entering the NCAA Tournament and to be picked to advance deep into brackets:

• Best BPI since Jan. 1

• 16-1 in last 17 games

• 7-4 vs teams in BPI top 50 (12-5 vs BPI top 100)

• No losses to team outside BPI top 60

Virginia will try to replicate the performance of the only other team in school history to win an outright regular-season ACC title. The 1980-81 squad, with Ralph Sampson on the roster, was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, before being eliminated in the Final Four by a James Worthy-led North Carolina team.