|6:30 ET, Mar 12, 2021
Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina
No. 16 Virginia tangles with red-hot Georgia Tech
Neither Virginia nor Georgia Tech had an easy time in their ACC tournament openers.
Surviving an early postseason test might work to their advantage on Friday night, when the top-seeded and No. 16-ranked Cavaliers try to snap the fourth-seeded Yellow Jackets' seven-game winning streak in the semifinals at Greensboro, N.C.
Though Virginia (18-6) secured its fifth ACC regular-season title in eight years, it didn't expect an easy time trying to claim the program's fourth league tournament championship. The Cavaliers trailed by as many as 11 in the first half Thursday against Syracuse, but used a 16-2 run spanning halftime to get back in the game.
Virginia, however, failed to hold a late six-point lead and needed freshman Reece Beekman's 3-pointer at the buzzer to pull out a 72-69 quarterfinal victory over the eighth-seeded Orange.
Sam Hauser (16.0 points per game), who scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, and Trey Murphy III (14.7 ppg in last three) combined for six of the 11 made 3s by Virginia, which matched Virginia's total from the previous two contests. The Cavaliers won this tournament in 2018, but lost to Florida State in the semifinals as the No. 1 seed in 2019.
"When you're in back-and-forth games, tournament play, that's what it is. You have to not lose your way," Virginia coach Tony Bennett told NewsRadio WINA. "Dig down, get some stops, make some baskets, make some plays.
"When you're in those settings, hopefully it does battle-test you."
Hauser has averaged 20.6 points on 55.1 percent shooting in his last six games and totaled 45 in the two most recent contests. He scored 22 in Virginia's 64-62 home win over Georgia Tech on Jan. 23, and just eight while contributing 10 rebounds with five assists in a 57-49 road victory over the Yellow Jackets on Feb. 10.
The Cavaliers have dominated Georgia Tech, winning eight in a row and 16 of the last 18 meetings. However, these Yellow Jackets are trying to win eight straight for the first time since their 12-0 start to the 2003-04 season.
Georgia Tech (16-8), though, also had to rally in its 70-66 quarterfinal victory over pesky No. 13 seed Miami on Thursday. Despite a season-low seven points and foul trouble from ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright (17.5 ppg), the Yellow Jackets used a 14-2 run to overcome a seven-point deficit early in the second half, then held on to snap a four-game ACC tournament losing streak.
"It was good to get (the tournament skid) off our shoulders and get on to the next game and have the opportunity to play Virginia," Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner told Learfield IMG College radio.
"We want another chance at Virginia. We're excited about that."
Jordan Usher had a team-high 15 points, and is averaging 15.5 in the last four games for the Yellow Jackets, who shot 56.7 percent and forced 11 Miami turnovers in the second half. Georgia Tech has shot a remarkable 55.4 percent in the second half of its last eight contests. However, it's shot 40.8 percent overall versus Virginia this season.
Wright's totaled only 21 points on 10-of-28 shooting in the two 2020-21 games against the Cavaliers. Teammate Jose Alvarado, who shook off a bruised knee Thursday, scored 38 points and Usher scored 31 in those contests.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 11, 2021