No. 23 men’s basketball faces Pittsburgh in final ACC game
Virginia looks for a strong finish to regular season following two-straight wins
After a huge win against top ACC team No. 5 North Carolina, the No. 23 Virginia men’s basketball team will close out the season at home versus Pittsburgh Saturday.
Monday, the Cavaliers (20-9, 10-7 ACC) grabbed arguably their biggest win of the season, beating the Tar Heels (25-6, 13-4 ACC), 53-43. Virginia looked nothing like the team from two weeks ago that lost to the same team by over 20 points.
Coach Tony Bennett changed the rotation up, starting freshman guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and going with a smaller line-up for much of the game.
Virginia got off to a slow start — going down by seven before scoring their first bucket. However, the Cavaliers’ defense maintained pressure on the Tar Heels. This defense led to offense, as Virginia scored 18 first-half points off 12 North Carolina turnovers to secure a four point halftime lead. The Cavaliers were able to maintain their lead throughout the second half, holding off a few Tar Heel attempts to regain the lead.
North Carolina’s 43-point total is the lowest under coach Roy Williams over 14 years. Despite having four players on the roster who average double digits, only one Tar Heel — junior guard Joel Berry II — scored more than eight points, with 12 on the game.
Offensively, both Guy and senior guard London Perrantes seem to have found their rhythm over the last couple games. Guy led Virginia in scoring with 17 points, including five three-pointers, six rebounds and four assists. Perrantes knocked down three from behind the arc and finished with 13 points and four assists. Junior guard Devon Hall added 11 points and five assists in the win as well.
The team’s next matchup against Pittsburgh (15-15, 4-13 ACC) is the last regular season game for the Cavaliers.
The Panthers are coming off their third-consecutive loss, with the most recent at Georgia Tech. In the 52-61 loss, three Pittsburgh players scored in double-digits — senior forwards Michael Young and Jamel Artis and sophomore guard Cameron Johnson. Young leads the team in scoring with 20.1 points per game, followed by Artis with 18.9 and Johnson with 11.9.
Pittsburgh is currently tied for second-to-last in the ACC. However, the last time the Panthers and Cavaliers faced off, Pittsburgh edged out an 88-76 victory in overtime.
Five Cavaliers scored in double digits in the loss, but Virginia struggled both defensively and on the board. Four of the Panthers’ five starters put up huge numbers, both in points and rebounds. Pittsburgh shot 53.7 percent from the field and sank 13 of 21 attempts from the three point line. The Panthers also outrebounded the Cavaliers 42-24, which included 12 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points for Pittsburgh.
Following four-consecutive losses, Virginia has picked up steam after winning its last two games. If the Cavaliers can keep up the defensive pressure they are best known for and stay in the offensive rhythm they have seemed to regain, the team should have no problem finishing out the regular season with a win.
Tipoff is set for noon Saturday at John Paul Jones Arena. The ACC Tournament, which begins Tuesday, March 7, will follow regular season play.