CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Malcolm Brogdon scored eight of his 19 points during a decisive second-half run and No. 12 Virginia clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by beating No. 4 Syracuse 75-56 on Saturday.
Akil Mitchell added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Mike Tobey and Justin Anderson scored 11 each for the Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1 ACC), who won their only outright ACC regular-season title 33 years ago – 1980-81 – when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. The victory was their 13th in a row, and the final buzzer brought hundreds streaming onto the court.
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 ailing Jerami Grant because of a sore back.
As it has so often this season, Virginia took command with a second-half spree fed in part by its defense, and in part by a celebrating sell-out crowd, many of whom stood throughout the second half.
Brogdon broke a 42-all tie with two free throws, and then hit a jumper from the foul line. After a turnover by the Orange, London Perrantes hit a deep 3-pointer that gave the Cavaliers a 49-42 lead.
Rakeem Christmas’ dunk after a Syracuse timeout quieted the crowd, but only for a minute because Anderson made a 3-pointer from the right side, Brogdon followed an Orange miss with a jumper and then followed another miss with a jumper. The lead was 56-45 with 5:15 remaining and fans sensed that the Cavaliers were in the process of putting the game away.
Ennis, playing with four fouls, hit a pair of free throws to slow the run, but Joe Harris hit a free throw, and then followed a Syracuse miss with a 3-pointer, his first basket in nine tries, causing the crowd to erupt in appreciation for the four-year starter. Harris was removed with 38.9 seconds left to a deafening cheer at Jones Paul Jones Arena.
Virginia had first-half runs on 9-0 and 8-2 in building a 22-15 lead, but a jumper by Fair and Ennis’ 3-pointer with 5:14 left in the half sparked 13-2 burst for the Orange.
Cooney and Michael Gbinije then connected back-to-back from beyond the arc for Syracuse, and Rakeem Christmas’ dunk made it 28-24.