Defense has been Virginia’s calling card under Tony Bennett. The Cavaliers’ 3-point shooting carried them to the ACC title on Saturday.
Sophomore guard Kyle Guy scored 16 points and Virginia shot 52.9 percent from the 3-point line to beat North Carolina 71-63 in the ACC tournament championship game.
Bennett has led Virginia (31-2) to two ACC titles in the past five years. This is the same school that had one in its first 60 years in the conference.
The Tar Heels (25-10), playing their fourth game in four days, actually shot relatively well (41.7 percent) against the country’s top-rated defense but couldn’t contain the Wahoos from the outside. Guy, Ty Jerome (12 points) and Devon Hall (15 points) combined to go 7-13 from the 3-point line.
"They're really good, they really are," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "They work hard defensively but they can score."
Junior forward Luke Maye led UNC with 20 points and UNC went 10-21 from 3 but Virginia kept the game at its preferred pace and stayed in front of UNC for all but 54 seconds of the game.
"They get up on you and then they put pressure on you thinking you have to come down, and you're thinking you have to get a quick shot to try to get that lead back," UNC guard Joel Berry said. "And then next thing you know, you take a bad shot, and then you've got to go back down and play defense for 30 seconds again, and then now you're like, 'Oh, dang, we really have to get it going now.' "
Maye had 15 points in the first half and made 5 of his first 7 shots. The Heels needed Maye’s scoring with Theo Pinson going 1 of 10 and scoring four points. Berry had only three points in the first half but finished with 17.
Virginia got eight points in the first half from backup guard Nigel Johnson. The Rutgers transfer had scored a total of three points Virginia’s first four games in March. The Wahoos played UNC to a near standstill in rebounding (a 31-29 UNC edge) and held the Tar Heels to two fastbreak points.
A pair of free throws by Hall a 34-24 lead with 2:30 left in the half but UNC scored the final six points of the half. UNC got as close as 50-47, with 10:27 in the second half, but Virginia’s defense clamped down and the 3s kept falling.
UNC tried to become the second team to win four games in four days but couldn't pull it off.
"We wanted to win this," Berry said. "We came to the tournament to win. We didn't come here just to say that we wanted to get it out of the way. We wanted to win. But it didn't go in our favor, so we've just got to go back and get ready for the NCAA Tournament and realize now this is the time you lose, you go home."
The Tar Heels did lose in the ACC tournament last year before going on to win the NCAA tournament.
"Last year we got our tails beat, and then we were okay after that," Williams said.n the Tar Heels' loss to Virginia in the ACC championship game