CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Jim Boeheim had no concerns when No. 12 Virginia pounded the ball inside to Akil Mitchell and Mike Tobey in the first half against Syracuse’s zone.
“That was fine. They had 27 points. We were fine with that,” Boeheim said.
What the Hall of Fame coach was worried about happened in the second half on Saturday, when Virginia started connecting from outside, making 7 of 11 3-point tries to hand the No. 4 Orange their third loss in four games, 75-56.
Malcolm Brogdon did much of the damage, scoring 17 of his career-high 19 points after the intermission, and London Perrantes and Justin Anderson each hit a pair from behind the arc.
Brogdon (12.4) and Harris (11.5) came into the game leading the Cavaliers in scoring, but were combined 1 for 8 with three points at halftime. They got untracked in the second half, finding openings in the Orange defense.
“I just thought we allowed Brogdon to shoot and we started the game for the whole first half not allowing him to shoot,” Boeheim said.
The Orange also were hampered by the second-half absence of Jerami Grant, their leading rebounder and No. 3 scorer, who played 13 minutes in the first half before an aching back forced him to the bench. He did not score, missing three shots, and grabbed just one rebound.
It all meant the Orange, in close games all year, couldn’t stay in this one.
“This is the first game all year that we have been out of the game,” Boeheim said.
Brogdon scored eight points during a decisive second-half run and Virginia won its 13th consecutive game and clinched the top seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Mitchell added 12 points and nine rebounds and Tobey and Anderson scored 11 each for the Cavaliers (25-5, 16-1 ACC), who won their only other outright ACC regular-season title 33 years ago — 1980-81 — when Ralph Sampson was a sophomore. 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). Syracuse allowed Virginia to shoot 50 percent (27-54) while shooting just 35.7 percent (20-56).
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, 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 — the first of the game — with 5:14 left in the half sparked 13-2 burst for the Orange.
Trevor Cooney, who had missed 22 of his last 27 3-point shots, and Richmond native Michael Gbinije then connected back-to-back from beyond the arc for Syracuse, and Christmas’ dunk made it 28-24.
Justin Anderson hit a 3, Virginia’s first, with 47 seconds left and it was 28-27 at the half.
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