Virginia had a tussle with Georgia Tech before pulling away to win by 11, 65-54. Give the Yellow Jackets credit though because they gave the Cavaliers a very tough game, tougher than a lot of other ACC teams have. We didn’t think they could come close frankly.
Virginia clamped down on Josh Okogie, holding the sophomore guard to seven points but after a frustrating season in which he was limited by injuries, Ben Lammers had 22 and hit 9-15.
With the win, Virginia secured the #1 seed in the ACC Tournament.
Incidentally, we didn't realize Ty Jerome had been playing with a thumb injury. He seems better now but that’s the kind of thing that can really hurt a team in March. Look how many teams have lost in March because of an injury or illness - UNC 1977 (multiple injuries) or Duke 1980 (Bob Bender’s appendix) - being ready for the tournament requires a razor thin edge and anything can upset it or limit a team just enough to cost it a game at the wrong time.
Up in Syracuse the Orange were close to upsetting UNC and tied late when Joel Berry picked the ball from big man Paschal Chukwu and scored. Two Berry free throws later and UNC prevailed 78-74.
UNC has a lot of useful pieces but Berry is the driving force on that team. He has as good an instinct for the clutch as we’ve seen in the ACC lately.
Syracuse shut Luke Maye down, holding him to nine points, but Theo Pinson made up for it, hitting 9-12, passing out seven assists and pulling down six rebounds.
We still don’t see UNC as a Final Four team but they are playing very well.
Remember when Virginia Tech looked rocky? Not so much anymore: the Hokies have won 6 of their last eight and are up to 4th in the ACC (after beating Clemson Wednesday night to tie them in the standings, the Hokies own the tiebreaker for fourth).
Kerry Blackshear and Justin Robinson had 14 each. Neither team shot well - Virginia Tech hit just 34.5% while Clemson managed just 38.6%.
Clemson, remember, is without Donte Grantham and Shelton Mitchell. It’s asking a lot to win on the road in the ACC without your two most important players. That’s Clemson’s third loss in a row.
Up in New York Rick Pitino held forth on the NCAA’s decision to uphold its punishments for Louisville’s recruiting and sex scandal. Pitino said this:
“Did a few of [the players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes they did. But that had nothing to do with an extra benefit. That had nothing to do with helping their eligibility or performance in winning that championship...Those parties did not enhance our players’ ability to win a national championship or go to a Final Four...How do you take down a championship? They’ve earned it. You need to get an injunction. The NCAA, they have total autonomy. I’m sure Notre Dame is not going to let it happen, and neither should the University of Louisville, in my opinion. I wish I could do it. Unfortunately, I’m defenseless.”
He kind of left a few things out, starting with the natures of those parties which involved a member of the coaching staff providing prostitutes to team members and recruits, some of whom were surely underaged as were some of the prostitutes apparently (they were daughters of Katina Powell, the main escort involved).
And as one wag said, Louisville should have learned from UNC and invited regular students to the parties then the NCAA couldn’t call it an extra benefit.
Pitino also issued a written statement which we include below in its entirety:
“In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or any recruit’s family members or representatives,” Pitino said in the statement. “I knew nothing about any agreement to make improper payments, and had no reason to suspect any illegality in the recruitment of any athlete in my programs. I never engaged in any improper communication with anyone, or had any part in such effort -- overtly, covertly, in code, through nuance, or in any other way.
”Not with sneaker company representatives, not with coaches, not with agents, not with recruits’ family members, not with anybody. I have never been involved, nor asked anyone to get involved, in such corrupt behavior and have never approved of it. Corruption and cheating have no place in any program I have run.”
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- Pinson scores career-high 23, UNC holds off Syracuse 78-74
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