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Jerome pushes No. 1 men’s basketball past Georgia Tech

Cavaliers survive spirited Yellow Jackets to clinch share of ACC title

<p>Sophomore guard Ty Jerome led the Cavaliers with 18 points Wednesday night.</p>

Sophomore guard Ty Jerome led the Cavaliers with 18 points Wednesday night.

When you’re the No. 1 team in the country, teams will naturally play up to you, in hope to be the giant killer every college basketball fan loves. Georgia Tech played that aspiring team on Wednesday, playing well beyond its record to make things interesting against No. 1 ranked Virginia. After realizing the Yellow Jackets would be no cake walk, the Cavaliers corrected themselves and pulled out a 65-54 victory to clinch at least a share in the ACC regular season title and the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament.

The Yellow Jackets (11-17, 4-11 ACC) came out hot against the pack-line defense of the Cavaliers (25-2, 14-1 ACC) keeping pace with them throughout the half. Two straight threes from senior guard Tadric Jackson gave Georgia Tech a 22-19 advantage with less than seven minutes in the first half, putting the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena on notice.

While Virginia regained some hold on the game, a jumper by Yellow Jacket senior center Ben Lammers as the half closed put his team at a mere one-point deficit into the break.

Lammers and company continued to challenge the Cavaliers into the second half, but foul trouble began to wear on them. Four starters finished with at least three fouls in the game as the team had to practice tenuous defense throughout the second half.

Virginia stayed the course with balanced scoring throughout the game. Sophomore Ty Jerome took hold of the Cavaliers offensive attack, scoring 18 points and adding five assists in one of his best performances in ACC play. The sophomore had was an efficient four-of-six from deep, hitting three of his long balls in the second half.

Though no other Cavalier reached double figures, several key contributions from inside scorers complemented Jerome’s big night. The team got a major lift off the bench from sophomore forward Mamadi Diakite, whose nine second half points helped fend off the Yellow Jackets in crunch time. Senior forward Isaiah Wilkins and junior center Jack Salt found success on the post with seven and six points, respectively.

Georgia Tech gave the Cavaliers a ride but ultimately came up short. Lammers had a bight night with 22 points and seven boards, while Jackson chipped in 15 points.

For Virginia, Coach Tony Bennett has once again led his team to an ACC regular season title — his third at Virginia, with all three coming since 2014. Though the team has not yet clinched the title outright, it solidified a No.1 seed and double bye in the ACC Tournament, with the most favorable path towards the title.

The Cavaliers get a shot at clinching the ACC title outright when they travel to face Pittsburgh — the conference’s only team not to have a win against another ACC opponent  — on Saturday.