Virginia Can’t Solve Duke in ACC Tournament Title Game


GREENSBORO, NC — With less than eight minutes left in Saturday night’s ACC Tournament Championship game, Virginia coach Tony Bennett bowed his head and reluctantly called a time out after the steal and the dunk from Kyle Filipowski reduced the Blue Devils lead to double digits.

The streak was just a moment in an unusually sloppy performance by the second-seeded Cavaliers. That poor ball security, combined with wayward shooting that included eight missed layups, condemned Virginia to a 59-49 loss at Greensboro Coliseum.

The 13th-ranked Cavaliers’ hopes crumbled midfield 16-for-48 (33.3%), including 4-for-17 on three-pointers (23.5%), in a game they never led . They also committed a dozen turnovers, making Virginia’s first double-digit game in its last 12 games.

“I think they’re a good defensive team,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of the fourth-seeded Blue Devils. “They really came together that way. Their length and athleticism was real, and I think sometimes it sped us up, and sometimes we were a little rushed.

Junior guard Reece Beekman led Virginia with 12 points but committed four team-high turnovers. Freshman guard Isaac McKneely scored 10 points and was the only other Cavaliers player to hit double digits in Virginia’s second-lowest point total of the season.

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Jeremy Roach (Paul VI) finished with a game-high 23 points going 7-for-12 from the field, and Filipowski, a standout freshman, added 20 points and 10 rebounds to push the Blue Devils (26-8 ) ranked 21st. their 22nd ACC Tournament championship, the most in conference history. Duke has won nine straight since dropping in overtime Feb. 11 in Charlottesville.

Virginia went 49-43 with 3:05 left on a McKneely three-pointer. But the Blue Devils responded with a three-point play from Roach before Kihei Clark’s steal resulted in a quick layup for Beekman with 1:46 to go.

Clark’s layup brought the Cavaliers down to 52-47, and Beekman’s layup after Filipowski made 1 of 2 foul shots cut Duke’s lead to 53-49 with 46 seconds left. The Blue Devils sealed the result by scoring six straight free throws in the final 40 seconds.

A 10-2 flurry Duke trailed the Cavaliers by their biggest margin so far, 36-22, with 14:34 left in the second half. Roach capped the run with a three-pointer. But Virginia responded with a three-point play from Kadin Shedrick, who made a lay-up and drew a third foul on Filipowski. Jayden Gardner followed with a dunk on a pass from Armaan Franklin to cut the deficit to 36-27, forcing Duke freshman coach Jon Scheyer to call a time out.

Loose handling of the ball in the first half led the Cavaliers to a 24-17 halftime trail. Virginia committed seven turnovers in the first half after amassing six in total in each of the previous two games.

“Obviously we wanted to win this, but we’re playing for something bigger,” McKneely said. “So we will take the next two days to rest and then get back to it. … The shots weren’t falling like they have in the last two games, but I know that once we get into the [NCAA tournament] we will be ready.

Here’s what else to know about the loss of Virginia:

Duke’s considerable length in the frontcourt confused the Cavaliers for much of the game, leading Virginia to manage just 20 points in the paint. That lack of production was in stark contrast to the teams’ first meeting, when the Cavaliers went 42 in a 69-62 overtime win at John Paul Jones Arena. Virginia had scored 40 points in the paint in Friday’s quarterfinals, a 76-56 win over third-seeded Clemson.

The combination of Filipowski and center Dereck Lively II, both 7-footers, kept Virginia from finishing on the edge except sporadically. More often than not, the Cavaliers have had to settle for contested jumpers.

“Obviously we are a little different without [injured starter Ben Vander Plas], so we have to adapt to that, but I thought they were interested in Jayden,” Bennett said. “And when Reece or Kihei or Armaan got in the lane, they were there.”

Clark’s shooting slump continued against the Blue Devils, who limited Virginia’s third-leading scorer to a 1-for-9 performance from the field. Clark finished with six points and three turnovers and is shooting 14 for 55 over the past seven games.

Clark was seeking the first ACC tournament championship of a highly decorated career that includes the 2019 NCAA title and three conference regular-season crowns.

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Virginia was scheduled to return to Charlottesville shortly after the ACC title game and will watch the NCAA Tournament tryout show together on Sunday at John Paul Jones Arena, athletic department officials said.

The Cavaliers are projected for a No. 4 seed and could return to Greensboro for the Round of 16. Other screenings have Virginia in Albany, NY, or Orlando for the first weekend.

“The effort was there, it was a good experience to have, and let’s enjoy it,” Bennett said. “Absolutely learn and prepare to play” in the NCAA Tournament.

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