Ty Jerome scored 24 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 5:34 remaining, and No. 2 Virginia held off Louisville 73-68 on Saturday to clinch the top seed in next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
Kyle Guy added 13 points and Jay Huff also made huge contributions at both ends as Virginia (28-2, 16-2) won its eighth in a row.
The Cavaliers will head to Charlotte, North Carolina, as the top seed and with a double-bye for the fourth time in the last six years. No. 3 North Carolina had a chance to tie for the top spot when it faced No. 4 Duke later Saturday, but the Cavaliers hold the tiebreaker by virtue of their 69-61 victory at UNC on Feb. 11.
Jordan Nwora scored 19 and Malik Williams 12 for the Cardinals (19-12, 10-8), who lost their ninth in a row in the series and for the sixth time in the last eight games under first-year coach Chris Mack. The Cardinals missed nine of their last 11 shots.
Louisville used a 20-4 run spanning the half to open a 47-40 lead early in the second half, quieting the sellout crowd at John Paul Jones Arena until Virginia immediately scored seven straight to tie it. The game was tied at 49 when Louisville scored six in a row to go back ahead and the lead flip-flopped until Jerome followed a three-point play by Christen Cunningham by making a pair of free throws.
That put Virginia ahead 63-62 and when Louisville turned the ball over on its next possession, Jerome found Huff free at the top of the key for his second 3-pointer. Huff also had two steals and a block during the rally, and Guy and Braxton Key hit 3-pointers.
Louisville: The Cardinals managed just 52 points in their 64-52 home loss to Virginia on Feb. 23, but offensive bursts by Williams (seven points early) and Nwora (10 in the last 8:33) had them within 36-33 at halftime. Nwora scored eight of Louisville’s 10 during a 10-3 run that briefly gave them a 27-26 lead with 6:06 remaining.
Virginia: Huff has a huge offensive upside and is a fan favorite at Virginia, but his defensive liabilities have limited his playing time in the past. Lately, he’s grasping coach Tony Bennett’s Pack-Line defense better, working as a rim protector and getting critical playing time.
Louisville: The Cardinals will await their opponent in the ACC Tournament.
Virginia: The Cavaliers have byes through the first two rounds of the ACC Tournament.