On the night before “Selection Sunday”, No. 7 North Carolina took home their first ACC crown since 2008 with a 61-57 victory over the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers. The Tar Heels used a dominant defensive stretch in the second half to Fend Off the ‘Hoos and help bring the ACC Championship back to the state of North Carolina for the first time in five years.
While ACC Player of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and runner-up Brice Johnson were drawing the headlines, it was the Tar Heels’ sophomore guard Joel Berry II who earned tournament MVP honors leading UNC with 19 points in the victory over Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers. Throughout the tournament, Berry averaged 17 points while shooting 17-for-24 from the field to go along with a 70% mark from the 3-point line.
The Tar Heels’ All-ACC First Team forward Johnson did live up to his hype, adding 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists. Brogdon, however, struggled from the field, shooting 6-for-22 (27%).
Virginia led for the majority of the first half, but North Carolina ended their drought of nearly four minutes without a field goal with a strong end to the first half, tying the game up at 28 before the break.
Three-pointers by London Perrantes and Evan Nolte allowed the Cavaliers to take a 44-40 lead in the second half, but the Tar Heel defense buckled down from there. Roy Williams’ Heels went on a 15-2 run, forcing the Cavaliers to 13 consecutive missed field goal attempts. Brogdon and Perrantes could not find their shots from deep, yet continued to settle for threes, as 6 of those 13 missed shots came From Beyond the arc.
Brogdon and Nolte would follow up the cold spell with consecutive threes to cut the deficit to three points at 55-52 with 57 seconds remaining, but an Isaiah Hicks field goal and a Brogdon miss allowed North Carolina to extend the lead, followed by two UNC free throws.
Anthony Gill’s deep three-pointer brought the ‘Hoos within two points at 59-57 with 2 seconds remaining, but the Tar Heels were able to cleanly inbound the ball to the eventual tournament MVP Joel Berry II, who would cap the game off at 61-57 with two free throws.
Both teams cinched number one seeds for the NCAA Tournament, and commence tournament play on Thursday.