Virginia downs Pitt, advances to ACC title game

Greensboro, NC ( - Virginia is headed to the ACC Tournament final for the first time since 1994 after pulling out a hard-fought 51-48 victory over Pittsburgh in another close finish at Greensboro Coliseum.

Joe Harris scored 12 points while Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill each netted 10 for the sixth-ranked Cavaliers (27-6), who will face Duke in Sunday's tourney finale. The Blue Devils upended NC State following Virginia's win.

Gill made two critical free throws in the closing seconds, and Justin Anderson blocked James Robinson's potential tying 3-point try in front of the Panthers' bench as the final buzzer sounded.

Pittsburgh (25-9), a day after knocking off North Carolina in the quarterfinals, shot just 36.7 percent from the floor and 3-of-14 from 3-point range. Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna each scored 15 points in the setback.

Much like the only regular season meeting -- one taken by Virginia in a slim 48-45 decision on Feb. 2 -- Saturday's showdown was played at a deliberately slow pace.

"We would be like that from that first game with them. It was trying to stand and last and fight," Virginia head coach Tony Bennett said. "They weren't going to give you anything easy and everybody knew it was kind of hanging on a possession."

The top-seeded Cavaliers scored the game's first four points, and that wound up being the biggest lead for either side the entire first half.

Harris' late 3-pointer sent Virginia into the locker room with a 26-24 lead, and the senior guard went baseline and banked in a runner midway through the second half to stretch the lead past two possessions, 43-36, for the first time all afternoon.

Gill's one-handed turnaround along the baseline the next time down gave the Cavaliers an eight-point advantage, 45-37, and despite going nearly six minutes without scoring, Virginia played front-runner the rest of the way.

Josh Newkirk's layup in transition trimmed Pitt's deficit to 47-44 with under 2 1/2 minutes to play, and Brogdon and Patterson traded layups inside the final minute to keep it a three-point game.

After Robinson stripped Brogdon at the foul line and went coast-to-coast for a contested layup with 10 seconds to play, Pittsburgh sent Gill to the line with 8.5 seconds remaining.

Gill, a 62.5 percent free throw shooter coming in, made both attempts, and Virginia used two fouls-to-give before Pitt reached the bonus.

Pitt, which entered as the No. 5 seed, had just four seconds following the second deliberate foul, and Anderson got a piece of Robinson's rushed try from the left wing to seal the win.

The Panthers will have their postseason fate decided on Sunday, and head coach Jamie Dixon implied his squad is looking forward to playing in the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm proud of how our guys played. We got better this week. We're healthy and playing our best basketball. I told our guys we have to continue to improve this week and be ready for next week," Dixon said.

Game Notes

Virginia has not lost in regulation since falling to Duke on Jan. 13 ... Pitt, which was playing its first season as a member of the ACC, is 3-9 all-time against Virginia ... Akil Mitchell recorded eight points and eight rebounds for the Cavaliers ... Virginia last won the ACC tourney title in 1976.