Malcolm Brogdon was there just when Virginia needed him to be the ACC Player of the Year.
The fifth-year senior scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the final nine minutes, carrying the second-seeded and fourth-ranked Cavaliers to a 73-68 victory over third-seeded and 11th-ranked Miami in the semifinals of the ACC tournament at the Verizon Center on Friday night.
The Cavaliers (26-6) will play top-seeded and seventh-ranked North Carolina (27-6) in the title game of the 63rd annual ACC championship at 9 p.m. Saturday. UNC routed fourth-seeded Notre Dame 78-47 in Friday night’s first semifinal.
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It will be the eighth trip to the final for Virginia, which won titles in 1976 and 2014. Virginia is 1-3 against UNC in the championship game, winning in 1976 and losing in 1977, 1982 and 1994.
London Perrantes added 11 points, and Marial Shayok had 10 for the Cavaliers, who beat Miami (25-7) and coach Jim Larranaga, a former Virginia assistant under Terry Holland, in two of three meetings this season.
Miami was led by reserve Ja’Quan Newton with 19 points, and Sheldon McClellan had 15.
It didn’t come without a struggle at the end for the Cavaliers, as the Hurricanes rallied from a 65-52 deficit after Brogdon made two free throws with 2 minutes, 5 seconds to play.
The Cavaliers came up with a case of the yips at the free-throw line during the final two minutes, with Shayok, Darius Thompson and even Perrantes, an 80 percent free-throw shooter, each missing both ends of a two-shot foul.
The Hurricanes utilized quick scores and judicious fouls to stay close, and Davon Reed’s 3-pointer with 38.6 seconds left cut the margin to 69-64.
Miami couldn’t completely capitalize, however. Newton and Angel Rodriguez each missed one of two free throws in the final 21.5 seconds. Miami never got closer than 71-68 on a layup by Anthony Lawrence Jr. with three seconds left, and it was left to Brogdon to bring it home, making two clinching free throws with 2.1 seconds left. He made all six of his attempts in the final 46.2 seconds.
Virginia led 36-31 by halftime but negated a lot of the good work it had turned in with a spotty performance in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
A 3-pointer by Brogdon with the shot clock running down and a basket by Perrantes gave the Cavaliers their biggest lead of the half at 36-25 with 1:56 remaining, but it didn’t last.
Miami reeled off the final six points before intermission to reduce the deficit to five points as McClellan, Lawrence and Newton each found a path to the basket.
Miami’s reserves made a big difference, outscoring their Virginia counterparts 21-15 in the half. Newton had 11 of his points by halftime, netting six in the final 3:31, and Ivan Cruz Uceda added eight, including both of Miami’s 3-pointers.
However, the Hurricanes struggled at the outset of the second half just as they had at the opening tip. They missed their first two shots and committed three turnovers, allowing the Cavaliers to open an eight-point lead by the first media timeout at 15:33.
Miami would recover, closing to within three points on a fallaway jumper from the wing by McClellan and a 3-pointer by Rodriguez.
It still was a three-point difference when Newton made two free throws after a media timeout at 11:41, but the Cavaliers widened it to six despite Anthony Gill going to the bench with his fourth foul with 8:39 left. Utilizing a small lineup anchored by either Evan Nolte or Isaiah Wilkins with four perimeter players, the Cavaliers made another spurt.
Brogdon drove the lane for three layups, putting Virginia ahead 55-47. After Rodriguez banked in a jumper, the Cavaliers went on an 8-1 run to take control at 63-50 with 3:10 left, with Gill returning in time to cap the run with two free throws.