Virginia basketball is one win from the ACC title, and now they’re rested

Ty Jerome’s shooting has suffered while he has dealt with a sprained thumb. (Eric Espada/Getty Images)

Following their last game a week ago, several prominent members of the top-ranked Virginia men’s basketball team spoke about how much they were looking forward to a lengthy break from the demands of ACC competition.

The weary Cavaliers had just completed their third road game in 10 days, and it showed as players gathered their belongings and slowly headed for the exit at Miami’s Watsco Center, where they had won, 59-50, to secure a double-bye in the ACC tournament.

Ty Jerome’s right hand was wrapped in ice to limit swelling in his sprained thumb. Isaiah Wilkins moved gingerly with a sore back that has acted up at times over the last few weeks. Devon Hall and Mamadi Diakite had only recently recovered from flulike symptoms.

“It comes at different times for every team, and I think it was a good time for us,” Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett said of the week off from games heading into the closing stretch of the regular season. “Hopefully let some guys refresh their bodies and heal up a little bit.”

During the hiatus, the Cavaliers not only received some much-welcomed rest — Bennett gave his players consecutive days off last week after they came back from South Florida — but they also moved within one win of securing the top seed in the ACC tournament and at least a share of their third conference regular season championship under Bennett.

[NCAA bracket projection: Cavs are overall No. 1 seed, and there’s a lot more ACC on the bubble]

Virginia (24-2, 12-1) has four games left in which to do so, starting on Wednesday night against Georgia Tech (11-16, 4-10), loser of five in a row, at John Paul Jones Arena.

The Cavaliers hold a three-game lead over second-place Duke and own the head-to-head tiebreaker courtesy of a 65-63 triumph on Jan. 27 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

North Carolina and Clemson are the only other programs that can finish with the same ACC record as Virginia, but the Cavaliers also claim head-to-head tiebreakers over both schools.

In addition, the remainder of Virginia’s schedule includes three games against opponents among the bottom four in the conference.

“You always start the year and want to be about the moment, but you want to have a chance to win and be part of ACC regular season championships,” Bennett said. “With this league and the depth and the amount of games, that’d be a tremendous thing to do, so to have that opportunity at this stage with some games left is really good.”

The Cavaliers, despite players with nagging ailments, head into the final two weeks of the regular season having avoided major injury, giving them a significant advantage over a host of other ACC programs not blessed with such good fortune.

Jerome has continued to practice with tape around his thumb and hand, according to Bennett, but might be able to play without such protection in the near future, depending on the stability of the finger.

The starting point guard has been limited the last two games while wearing a soft cast after spraining his thumb in practice, shooting a combined 5 for 18, including 1 for 12 on three-pointers.

Jerome did have seven assists, his second most in a game this season, against Miami.

“It’s getting better,” Jerome said following the win against the Hurricanes in which he scored six points and went 4 for 6 from the free throw line after going 19 of 20 over his first 25 games. “I’m not going to complain about it, but these eight days will hopefully help, and I hopefully won’t have to wear tape or a cast, and hopefully it will be gone.”

The Yellow Jackets, meantime, are set to play their third consecutive game without starting point guard Jose Alvarado, who fractured his left elbow during an 80-69 loss to Duke on Feb. 11.

The freshman is out for the rest of the season, Coach Josh Pastner announced last week.

Alvarado was the second-leading scorer on the team and one of two players to start every game this season for Georgia Tech. The other is center Ben Lammers, himself nursing a sore ankle.

Senior Tadric Jackson has moved into the starting lineup in place of Alvarado and led the Yellow Jackets with 17 points in Saturday’s 76-56 loss to visiting Virginia Tech.

Virginia beat Georgia Tech, 64-48, in the first meeting on Jan. 18 in Atlanta and has won six of the last seven in the series.

“They do their thing, and they’re really, really good at what they do,” Pastner said of the Cavaliers. “They’re not really good, they’re exceptional at it. For us, we’ve unfortunately been hit with the injury bug. It’s just hard to win in this league when you don’t have the depth and you get hit with some injuries.”

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KU, West Virginia to tangle on Saturday | The Kansas City Star

Cole Aldrich would love for his mere presence to guarantee a Kansas victory over West Virginia on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

“One of the most special things about walking in that building is I never lost at home in three years,” said Aldrich, a 6-foot-11 former KU center who went 55-0 at home during his career which spanned from 2008 to 2010.

He will have his jersey No. 45 hung in the south rafters of the fieldhouse at halftime of a 5:15 p.m., Big 12 battle between the No. 13-ranked Jayhawks (20-6, 9-4) and No. 20 Mountaineers (19-7, 8-5). The game will be shown live on ESPN.

“You kind of look at this year, losing three at home. Most teams in the country would be happy with just losing three games at home,” said Aldrich, the 29-year old Minnesota Timberwolves center. “This year for us, it’s kind of a rarity. You usually don’t lose that many at home, maybe one. Once in a while you’ll have a few years where you don’t lose at all. To be able to go 55-0 at home was just kind of a testament of how good our fans were.”

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This KU team has won 11 games and dropped three (Arizona State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State) at Allen Fieldhouse this season.

“We definitely talk about it as a team, how we’ve been losing games at home,” said KU senior point guard Devonté Graham. “It’s just not normal for the team or the fans that experience it. We’ve done it way too much this year.”

KU — which last lost four games at home in 1988-89 — on Saturday will be trying to complete a regular-season sweep of West Virginia, which squandered a 16-point lead in a 71-66 loss to the Jayhawks on Jan. 15 at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W. Va.

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Kansas head basketball coach wants this team to focus on itself and not comparisons with other KU teams. Self says Devonté Graham is doing it all for the Jayhawks Rich SuggThe Kansas City Star

West Virginia also blew an 18-point first-half lead in a 76-69 overtime loss to KU three years ago at Allen and squandered a 14-point lead in the final 2 minutes, 58 seconds of last year’s 84-80 OT loss in Allen.

“That and from the last game … us sneaking one on the road there,” Graham said of KU’s win in Morgantown this season. “They are going to definitely be pumped up to come here to try to get the ‘W.’’’

KU should be fired up as well with ESPN’s GameDay crew in town as well as Aldrich and other members of KU’s 2008 NCAA title team who will be recognized during the game as part of a 10-year title reunion weekend.

“The competition … we don’t like them. They don’t like us,” Graham said of the Mountaineers. “Coach (Bob) Huggins gets 25K ($25,000) anytime he beats us. I don’t like that. We don’t want to give him any extra money,” Graham added with a smile.

Huggins receives a bonus any time the Mountaineers beat the Jayhawks. He donates the money to cancer research.

In the first meeting this season, Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk combined for 33 points as KU overcame a dominating performance from 6-8 West Virginia sophomore Sagaba Konate, who scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots.

“They weren’t all smart plays, but that’s on me. I said, ‘Hey, take it right at him every time.’ Of course, we did, and he blocked everything,” KU coach Bill Self said of Konate, who is from Mali.

“Still the mindset was to be aggressive,” Self added. “You’d much rather have a player be aggressive and maybe make a not very smart play than have a player be timid or tentative. We were trying to go at him. He has emerged as one of the best big guys in the country, not just in our league, probably has been as dominant as anybody from a defensive standpoint. It’s very impressive how he’s improved.”

West Virginia’s all-time steals leader, Jevon Carter, scored 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting with one steal in 36 minutes versus the Jayhawks. KU, which hit 8 of 23 three-pointers to WVU’s 5 of 27, committed just 13 turnovers (to WVU’s 16) against the Mountaineers’ fullcourt press.

“I think the Mountaineers and Jayhawks have some similarities this year,” Self said. “I think we’ve both played really well at times and both labored at times. Certainly when they are playing well they are as good as anybody. I feel the same way about us. I don’t think either team has been as consistent as what Bob wants or what we’d like, either. They are two teams potentially as good as anybody playing on Saturday.

The Jayhawks, who have won 13 straight regular-season Big 12 titles, enter this game one game back of Texas Tech (22-4, 10-3) and one ahead of West Virginia in the league standings. Texas Tech plays at Baylor on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. West Virginia, which has won three of four games, will play at Baylor on Tuesday. KU will play host to Oklahoma on Monday.

“Not throwing it to them at the end of the game,” Huggins said Friday on WVU’s official website, when asked of keys to winning Saturday. “Maybe get a whistle your way once or a loose ball your way, maybe a shot to fall for you. We’ve had a whole litany of things that have gone wrong at the end of games (at Allen),” Huggins added.

Asked about KU’s lack of depth, Huggins, who used 11 players in the first 6 minutes of Monday’s 82-66 home win over TCU, said: “They’ve gone out and got a high school kid (Silvio De Sousa) eligible at the midterm who is a very effective backup center for them. They are using some other guys. They’re good players. I think he (Self) has done a great job of getting some guys in and familiar with what’s going on in a short period of time.”

NOTES: Fans are invited to attend the ESPN’s GameDay show, which will start at 10 a.m., Saturday, at Allen Fieldhouse. Doors will open at 8 a.m. The event is free to the public. … KU’s 2008 NCAA title team will be recognized during the game. “Mario (Chalmers) and Brandon (Rush) and Darnell (Jackson) we don’t think are going to be able to make it back,” Self said. “Darnell is overseas. Mario I think is going to be out of the country. Brandon, I’m not sure exactly what the situation is. We haven’t got a final (word) on him,” Self said. “Russell (Robinson) is playing in Macedonia. There will be some guys that can’t be here, but certainly the vast majority of them will be. I don’t know if there will be an opportunity for them to sit down and talk with our players. I haven’t thought that through at all. Our players have all been around these guys that are coming bark, spent time with them in the summers. Tyrel Reed, three days a week, Sherron (Collins) every game. It’s not like they don’t get an opportunity to see these guys.” … Last year’s college basketball player of the year, Frank Mason of the Sacramento Kings, was in town for Friday’s KU practice.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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Candidate Ejected From West Virginia House Floor for Listing Lawmakers’ Oil and Gas Donors

John H. Shott, a West Virginia state lawmaker, did not appreciate when, during a public hearing on the House floor on Friday, a citizen began listing donations he and some of his colleagues had received from the oil and gas industry.

He asked her to stop, warning her that she would be out of order if she continued.

And when she ignored him, reading the name of the next politician who had accepted donations related to the bill under discussion, which would make it easier for oil and gas companies to drill on private land, he had her forcibly escorted out.

The citizen, Lissa Lucas, is a Democrat running for the House of Delegates in the state’s Seventh District. She arrived at the public hearing on Friday intending to talk about the delegates’ donors.

“The people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry and the people who are going to be voting on this bill are also often paid by the industry,” she said.

She said that Delegate Charlotte R. Lane, one of the bill’s sponsors and a Republican, had received $10,000 from industry interests in past elections, a number corroborated by VoteSmart, a website that tracks campaign contributions.

She then moved on to Mr. Shott, a Republican and the chair of the judiciary committee, who was presiding over the hearing. She said that he had collectively taken $8,000 from industry interests. VoteSmart lists $4,500 contributed to Mr. Shott from the oil and gas industry and another $3,500 from the mining industry.

Then, as Ms. Lucas prepared to move on to Jason S. Harshbarger, the Republican delegate she is running to unseat, Mr. Shott cut in.

“Ms. Lucas, we ask no personal comments be made,” he said.

She protested, arguing her comments weren’t personal.

“It is a personal comment and I’m going to call you out of order if you’re talking about individuals on the committee,” Mr. Shott said. “So if you would address the bill. If not, I’ll ask you to please step down.”

Ms. Lucas’s microphone was cut off shortly afterward. At Mr. Shott’s request, two men approached her, clasped her arms and escorted her from the floor.

Ms. Lucas, 46, said in an interview on Monday that she was less concerned with being elected than with the issue that caused her to attend the hearing.

“I think politics must suck your soul out somehow,” she said. “I don’t really care so much if I win or not so long as whoever’s representing us is not attacking our property rights.”

Mr. Shott on Monday defended his decision to cut Ms. Lucas off, and said that he did not see why the campaign donations were relevant to the bill.

“I think the merits of the bill is what we wanted to hear about,” he said.

He rejected the assertion that he and others were in the industry’s pocket. “We made numerous changes that the industry did not want that were more favorable to our landowners, our mineral owners and surface owners,” he said.

He said that he believed Ms. Lucas’s protest was a setup, and he suggested that she had expected to be filmed. (Ms. Lucas said she had expected to be gaveled but not to be “carted out.” She said she had been sent multiple versions of the video after the episode, but had not coordinated with anyone in advance.)

The bill Ms. Lucas spoke out against, House Bill 4268, would permit companies to drill on private land after obtaining the consent of 75 percent of the landowners. Current law requires that companies obtain approval from all the affected landowners, allowing any individual to prevent drilling.

Ms. Lucas, a self-described introvert who was born and raised in West Virginia, manages interactive media for a site that sells chickens.

But she is passionate about her farm near Cairo, W.Va., where she has mineral rights. She has paid close attention to the oil and gas industry’s push to buy more and more property in recent years.

“People out here aren’t against drilling and fossil fuels by and large,” she said. “In general, people like the gas. It’s that we don’t want the property invasion. These corporations are trying to force people to give up their mineral rights, force people to take bad leases.”

Explaining why she had decided to run, she said, “I got increasingly worried that if I kept my nose buried in my garden, I wouldn’t have a garden to keep it buried it in.”

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College basketball rankings: Virginia jumps up and is the new No. 1 in the Top 25 (and 1)

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Does Villanova still deserve a No. 1 seed after being upset by St. John’s?

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How wild was Wednesday night? This wild: Villanova, Purdue, Auburn and Nevada all lost home games despite entering the day with a combined record of 46-0 at home. Total insanity. Just upsets on top of upsets on top of upsets. And, needless to say, those developments had an impact on the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).

Virginia is the new No. 1, obviously.

The Cavaliers improved to 23-1 Wednesday with a 59-55 win at Florida State. So they now have nine top-50 KenPom wins — most notably victories at Duke and over Clemson and North Carolina. And considering their lone loss is a single-digit loss at West Virginia, the body of work is undeniably rock solid. Truth be told, there’s really no reasonable alternative for the top spot right now. So if Virginia beats Virginia Tech this weekend, the Cavaliers should be a unanimous No. 1 in Monday’s AP and coaches polls.

Villanova only dropped to No. 2 simply because I believe the Wildcats — at 22-2 with seven top-50 KenPom wins — still have the nation’s second-best resume even after Wednesday’s surprising 79-75 loss to St. John’s. And Purdue remained No. 3 despite Wednesday’s last-second 64-63 loss to Ohio State for basically the same reason, i.e., because I don’t think anybody below the Boilermakers deserves to be ahead of the Boilermakers, who are 23-3 with eight top-50 KenPom wins. Also worth noting: Their three losses have come by an average of just 2.7 points. And two of their three losses are to schools also in the top 15 of Thursday morning’s Top 25 (and one).

Seton Hall and Nevada are out. Miami and Texas A&M are in. And before you scoff at the Aggies’ reentry, you should know that Wednesday’s 81-80 victory at Auburn was their sixth top-50 KenPom win, and that three of their eight losses came when they were without at least two starters. In other words, Texas A&M’s record doesn’t look great. But its resume is better than most realize.

The complete Top 25 (and one) is below.

Thursday’s Top 25 (and one) updated rankings

Out: Nevada, Seton Hall

In: Miami, Texas A&M

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Virginia museum to auction off letter by Alexander Hamilton

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – A letter written by Alexander Hamilton will go to the highest bidder at an auction to raise money for restoration work at a Virginia museum.

The Virginian-Pilot reports the letter, written by a Founding Father of the United States and the first secretary of the Treasury, was written Sept. 14, 1794.

In the letter, Hamilton makes a military request for wagons during the Whiskey Rebellion. That was a violent uprising in the 1790s in western Pennsylvania that arose in response to a federal tax on whiskey production.

The newspaper says the money raised by auctioning the letter will benefit the Hill House Museum, a historic home in Portsmouth furnished with family belongings collected through generations.

The auction will take place March 22 at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church.

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, http://pilotonline.com

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Train carrying U.S. Republican lawmakers hits truck in Virginia, one dead

Train carrying U.S. Republican lawmakers hits truck in Virginia, one dead

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia slammed into a garbage truck on Wednesday in Crozet, Virginia, killing one person aboard the truck, authorities said.

There was one confirmed fatality and one serious injury in the collision, the White House said. Republican Senator Bill Cassidy, who was aboard the train, said on Twitter that three people were in the truck and one was killed. Of the other two, Cassidy said, one sustained major injuries and one had minor injuries.

“There are no serious injuries among members of Congress or their staff,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

Amtrak said two crew members and two passengers were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. Representative Jason Lewis of Minnesota was examined at a local hospital for a possible concussion after the collision.

“I‘m fine compared to, tragically, the truck drivers, and thankful for the prompt action of our doctors and first responders. My thoughts are with the family of the driver who passed away,” Lewis told Reuters.

The truck was on the tracks at a crossing when the crash occurred, Amtrak said. Video from the scene showed the battered truck afterward, with trash strewn around it.

The train was taking lawmakers to an annual retreat being held this year in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, just west of the Virginia state line.

Amtrak said the collision occurred at 11:20 a.m. and local law enforcement was investigating. Crozet is a tiny town between the college town of Charlottesville, Virginia, and White Sulphur Springs.

Lawmakers said spouses and children of some members of Congress were aboard. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan was on the train, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was not aboard, lawmakers said.

Cassidy, a doctor, said he and other lawmakers who are physicians tended to the injured until emergency personnel arrived.

Emergency first responders work at the scene of the crash where an Amtrak passenger train carrying Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Washington to a retreat in West Virginia collided with a garbage truck in Crozet, Virginia, U.S. January 31, 2018. Justin Ide/Crozet Volunteer Fire Department/Handout via REUTERS

Immediately after the crash, a law enforcement team dressed in black surrounded the train with weapons drawn and searched the area for possible attackers as first responders treated the injured, said a local emergency worker, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“They surrounded the train on both sides and set up a perimeter with their automatic weapons pointing out and then searched the woods around the train,” the worker said. “At least five members of Congress helped firefighters and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) treat the three injured people who had been in the truck.”

“We’re fine, but our train hit a garbage truck. Members with medical training are assisting the drivers of the truck,” Representative Greg Walden wrote on Twitter.

Slideshow (5 Images)

The Republican retreat, an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss both legislation and politics in the run-up to November’s congressional elections, was scheduled to run until midday Friday.

President Donald Trump was scheduled to attend on Thursday. Vice President Mike Pence was due to attend on Wednesday.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending team to investigate the crash.

The collision was the second tragedy to hit congressional Republicans in the past year.

Last June, a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers were practicing for an annual charity game pitting Republicans against Democrats. Representative Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was severely wounded but has recovered and returned to work. He was not on the train.

While it was not immediately clear who was at fault in the Virginia collision, Amtrak’s safety record has come under scrutiny after a series of recent incidents including a derailment of a passenger train south of Seattle in December that killed three. In that crash, an engineer misread a signal and failed to slow the train, investigators said.

In November, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board issued a harsh critique of Amtrak’s culture.

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Stop it with ‘Virginia wins ugly.’ The truth is, Virginia can win it all.

Stop it with ‘Virginia wins ugly.’ The truth is, Virginia can win it all.

Kyle Guy and the Cavaliers committed just five turnovers in their victory at Duke. (Rob Kinnan/USA Today Sports)

DURHAM, N.C. — What we know now, for sure, is what we might have suspected before tipoff Saturday afternoon on Cameron Indoor Stadium: There are no limits to what the men’s basketball team from Virginia can accomplish this spring. That guarantees nothing, of course, and there could be a night when a shot doesn’t fall or a call goes the wrong way. But man, watch these Cavaliers play defense as if their dinner and dessert depended on it, and it doesn’t take much to dream a bit.

The last time Virginia won at Cameron Indoor Stadium, precisely zero of the current Cavs had been born, and Coach Tony Bennett was finishing out the last of his three on-again, off-again seasons as an NBA guard. That was 1995.

And now we have this: a Virginia team that came to Duke with a better record (19-1 vs. 18-2) and a higher ranking (second vs. fourth), and still was an underdog.

Presenting Cavaliers 65, Blue Devils 63.

“As everybody will tell you,” Bennett said, “it’s one conference game in the middle part of the year.”

No, Tony. Not everyone will tell you that. I won’t tell you that. What I’ll tell you: If your team can win at this place against this team, it can win on any court against anybody — in any month, be it March or (yikes) April. Your team can be a joy to watch, too, and this was not a win at Georgia Tech or Wake Forest. This Duke team has lottery-style talent falling out of its shorts.

“My guys played their hearts out,” Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

And Virginia still won.

So we can, and should, chalk this up to Bennett’s coaching, because in preparation, in execution, in in-game adjustments, he is clearly a star. He has a habit, whether it’s on a made bucket or a missed shot, to point to the defensive end of the court, to make sure his team gets back.

But by this point, in his ninth season in Charlottesville, that is the Cavaliers’ way of life. It is their oxygen. In Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. and Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils boast at least four players who could score 20 in a given game. Duke’s average output before facing Virginia: 91.7 points per game, best in the country.

And yet on Saturday at halftime, Duke had managed just 22 points, had committed eight turnovers, had clanked all seven of its three-pointers.

“We weren’t perfect defensively,” Bennett said, and he’s right. But that also gives you a sense of what the standards are.

About talent: Duke, by this point in the program’s arc, is the same as Kentucky. Players come for a couple semesters, then they depart for the NBA regardless of whether they hung a banner or laid an egg. Allen is a senior, but other than that, only three Duke minutes Saturday went to non-freshmen. Another similar (better?) class will roll into Cameron next year. So the expectations remain, even if the faces are rarely the same.

The Cavaliers, they hear that stuff, and they don’t disagree with the assessment of, say, Bagley’s ability. How could you, when he went for 30 points and 14 rebounds, when he leads the ACC in both scoring and rebounding?

Still.

“We’re talented, too,” Virginia senior Devon Hall said. “Just like they are.”

There’s an edge to that answer, for sure. Because the Cavaliers are so disciplined — they turned the ball over just five times Saturday — and because they are defined by defense, it’s easy to dismiss them as a product of Bennett’s system. That has to be true, to a certain extent.

But stop telling them they win because of how they’re coached, not who they are. Stop telling them they win — don’t say it — ugly.

“It definitely gets, not under our skin, but it’s annoying,” said sophomore guard Kyle Guy, who led four Cavs in double figures with 17 points, who hit a massive three-pointer with just more than three minutes to go, and who iced the game by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with six seconds left. “An ugly win is a win.”

This wasn’t one of those. In the first half, Virginia’s offense picked apart Duke’s man-to-man defense — clearly the Blue Devils’ weakness — to the point which Krzyzewski had to switch to zone for almost the entirety of the second half. For years, the Blue Devils’ signature move, when a run is rolling and Cameron is rocking, is to slap the floor — annoying an entire nation, except those in blue. The signal: Everybody guard your guy. Here comes a stop.

Saturday, after Duke had eliminated all of what had been a 13-point Virginia lead, Allen went back on defense, slapped the floor — and dropped into that zone.

“It was a good move on their part,” Bennett said of the zone.

Sure. It’s what a team full of freshmen has to do to survive. But it’s worth pointing out that at no point did Virginia have to morph its defense. Eight more Duke turnovers followed in the second half. The Cavs played their man.

“I was a freshman once,” Guy said, “and you’re not really prepared for this pressure that we put on the ball.”

So halfway through the ACC season, Virginia is 9-0 in conference with a three-game lead. But this isn’t uncharted territory. The Cavaliers were a No. 1 seed in 2014, a No. 2 in 2015, a No. 1 in 2016. Their critics will say that despite that success, Bennett’s teams have only once advanced past the Sweet 16 and have not reached the Final Four. Not yet.

“We can be as good as we want to be,” Guy said.

Bennett would second that notion. But he is, too, of the belief that such success is fragile, that a win at Duke is followed by a home game against Louisville, and couldn’t the Cavs lose that one?

But he also, clearly, likes his team. Before the season, Duke was ranked first nationally, Virginia not ranked at all. But why place limits or labels on what the Cavs can do if they keep developing like they have these last three months?

“Can we just keep that idea of our unity, our synergy, the whole being greater than the sum of the parts?” Bennett said. “I think that’s so big. Because we have really good parts. And there’s talent, and I don’t think our players sometimes get enough credit for their talent. But there is a synergy or a chemistry that when they’re right, it’s even better.”

Saturday afternoon, when Bagley scored a meaningless bucket just as the horn sounded, a Cameron crowd that had been jacked up only 10 minutes earlier melted into murmurs.

And then a funny thing happened: The Cavaliers, they didn’t stream onto the floor. They didn’t tackle each other. They didn’t have to be calmed down and regain their decorum.

No, there were some hugs and high-fives. But then the Virginia men’s basketball team fell into the handshake line and congratulated Duke on a fiery, fun game.

This is a team that knew what happened Saturday was possible. This is a team that knows the next two months are filled with even greater possibilities. Let the mind wander. There are no limits.

For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.

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Virginia keeps rolling with a 61-36 win over shorthanded Clemson

Virginia keeps rolling with a 61-36 win over shorthanded Clemson

Virginia center Jack Salt battles for a loose ball against Clemson. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The second-ranked Virginia men’s basketball team overcame a ragged first half to rally for a 61-36 win against No. 18 Clemson on Tuesday night, leaving the Cavaliers as the lone unbeaten school in ACC play.

In permitting its fewest points this season, Virginia claimed an 11th consecutive victory to match the program’s longest winning streak since 2015-16. The Cavaliers beat a ranked opponent for the second time and upended the Tigers for the seventh straight time.

Redshirt senior guard Devon Hall led Virginia (19-1, 8-0 ) with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting . Backcourt mate Kyle Guy added 12 points in yet another lopsided result for a team that was unranked at the start of the season and next faces No. 4 Duke in Durham, N.C., on Saturday.

“I thought in the second half that was some of the best defense we played,” Virginia Coach Tony Bennett said. “They had a couple of careless turnovers on their part, and we turned them into points. It was physical. They kind of punched us in the face a little bit in the first half, and we were a little sped up and stretched out. We then righted the ship and played some of our better defense.”

The game turned handily in Virginia’s favor thanks to an 18-2 barrage in the second half. Starting guard Ty Jerome made two three-pointers in the decisive surge, with his second growing the lead to 48-29 with 8:16 left.

Virginia removed virtually any suspense despite being without Isaiah Wilkins. The senior starting forward left the court for the locker room with roughly 15 minutes to play to have his back examined before emerging to watch the rest of the game from the bench.

Bennett indicated Wilkins could have re-entered had the outcome been in jeopardy.

Wilkins’s teammates made his idle time enjoyable, bumping the lead to 52-29 with 6:48 to play on reserve guard Nigel Johnson’s acrobatic layup between two defenders. On the previous possession, Hall got deep into the lane for a floater over multiple defenders.

The Cavaliers collected 14 steals, their most this season, forced Clemson (16-4, 5-3) into 19 turnovers and held a 25-8 advantage in points off turnovers. The Tigers shot 32 percent, including 3 for 20 (15 percent) from three-point range and went nearly eight minutes in the second half without scoring.

Clemson’s point total was its lowest this season by 24 and the lowest in series history.

“He said it was a real blue-collar game. I’m not going to use the full phrase,” Jerome said, referring to Bennett’s halftime message. “It was a blue-collar game, so we need to roll up our sleeves and just fight it out, be physical, be who we are. A lot of times at this point in the year teams start slipping a little bit in the things they do best, so we wanted to turn the screws back just a little bit.”

In the midst of one of its best seasons this decade, Clemson entered seeking its first road win against a ranked opponent. The Tigers already had secured a victory over then-No. 18 Miami, 72-63, at Littlejohn Coliseum on Jan. 13 on their way to climbing into a tie for third place in the ACC with Duke.

The most recent triumph for Clemson — which achieved its highest ranking since Jan. 18, 2010, when it was No. 17 — came at a significant cost. During the second half of Saturday’s 67-58 win against Notre Dame, Tigers starting forward Donte Grantham tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a non-contact play.

Grantham is out for the rest of the season, forcing Clemson to play without its second-leading scorer and rebounder.

Freshman Aamir Simms started in place of Grantham against Virginia. The four-star recruit had not played more than eight minutes in a conference game this season until coming in for Grantham after the injury and finishing with five points in 14 minutes against the Fighting Irish.

Simms was not much of a factor early in the first half Tuesday as Virginia scored the first seven points of the game. Clemson responded with 11 in a row, and the Cavaliers regrouped themselves with another seven consecutive points capped by Hall’s three-pointer for a 14-11 lead.

The half of runs continued when Clemson scored the next nine, compelling Bennett to call a timeout.

The stoppage allowed Virginia to settle in again, even without Jerome, who missed much of the half with two fouls. The Cavaliers closed with an 11-0 push for a 27-23 halftime lead behind four points each during that time from Hall and redshirt junior center Jack Salt.

“We lost some momentum there at the end of the first half offensively, and I think we really tried to do too many one-on-one things in the second half, just got away from being who we were,” Tigers Coach Brad Brownell said. The Cavaliers “finally made a couple shots, and when they have a lead like that, you’re really in trouble.”

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No. 2 Virginia shuts down Georgia Tech, wins 9th straight

No. 2 Virginia shuts down Georgia Tech, wins 9th straight

ATLANTA (AP) De’Andre Hunter scored 17 points and No. 2 Virginia won its ninth straight game, 64-48 over Georgia Tech on Thursday night.

It was another defensive masterpiece by the Cavaliers (17-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who limited Georgia Tech to 40.5 percent shooting and forced 18 turnovers.

Virginia snapped a four-game winning streak for the Yellow Jackets (10-8, 3-2).

After making the first basket of the game, Georgia Tech quickly got an idea of what kind of night it would be. The Jackets missed their next eight shots and turned it over four times before Josh Okogie finally broke a nearly eight-minute scoreless drought with a dunk.

Virginia led 28-19 at halftime, and Georgia Tech never got any closer the rest of the way.

Tadric Jackson led Georgia Tech with 14 points. No one else was in double figures.

SAINT MARY’S 74, NO. 13 GONZAGA 71

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – Jock Landale had 26 points and 12 rebounds, and Saint Mary’s beat Gonzaga to take sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference.

Rui Hachimura came off the bench to score 23 points for Gonzaga (16-4, 6-1 WCC), which suffered a rare home loss.

Calvin Hermanson added 16 points for the Gaels (18-2, 7-0), who won their 13th straight.

Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s have won the past nine WCC tournament titles, with Gonzaga claiming seven. The Gaels were the preseason pick by league coaches to win the conference this season.

Landale’s layup put Saint Mary’s up 72-70 with 1:06 left.

Zach Norvell Jr. hit a free throw for Gonzaga with 41 seconds left to cut Saint Mary’s lead to one, and then Landale broke free and scored on a layup with 15 seconds left that turned out to be the game’s final points.

NEBRASKA 72, NO. 23 MICHIGAN 52

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – James Palmer Jr. scored 19 points, Isaiah Roby had a career-high 14 and Nebraska got its first win over Michigan since joining the Big Ten.

Nebraska (14-7, 5-3), which needed Palmer’s 3-pointer to beat last-place Illinois 64-63 on Monday, led 32-21 at the half and never let Michigan get closer than 10 points in the last 17 minutes.

Michigan (16-5, 5-3), which had won nine of its last 10, suffered its most lopsided loss of the season and had a season-low for points. Charles Matthews had 15 points for the Wolverines, who shot 37.5 percent from the floor and a season-low 22.2 percent (4 of 18) on 3-pointers.

The Wolverines had come in 8-0 against the Huskers since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011-12, and they had won 10 straight in the series.

St. Mary’s knocks off No. 13 Gonzaga 74-71 for 13th consecutive win

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Status quo or changing of guard? KU-West Virginia could offer early hint

Entering this week’s games, there have been 260 weekly polls since the 2004-05 basketball season. Kansas wasn’t the highest-ranked Big 12 team in 97 of them.

So, for the previous 13 1/2 years, people who cast an Associated Press top 25 ballot from the preseason poll in November until the final ranking after the conference tournaments believed there was a better team in the league than the Jayhawks.

Who’s to argue the perception? Kansas has lost games, played poorly, and in some years not owned the best NCAA Tournament seed among Big 12 programs.

But the one thing the Jayhawks haven’t done since that season is lose a Big 12 championship, 13 and counting.

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The quest for No. 14 reaches a high-profile test on Monday, when Kansas visits West Virginia. These are the teams picked to finish first and second — KU coach Bill Self, who couldn’t vote for his own team, picked the Mountaineers in his preseason poll — and teams that finished first and second in league play over the past two seasons.

Based on early returns, the Mountaineers have taken a step forward, climbing as high as second in the polls and amassing a 15-game winning streak before Saturday’s loss at Texas Tech.

With a combination of experience and talent, Bob Huggins appears to have his best Big 12 team. We’d be talking about guard Jevon Carter as the early favorite for Big 12 player of the year if Oklahoma freshman Trae Young wasn’t the early leader for national player of the year, although the first round went to Carter, who held Young to an 8-for-22 shooting game in the Mountaineers’ victory over the Sooners on Jan. 6.

This is a tough and smart West Virginia team that pressures its opponents like no other. Because of the short turnaround time, Kansas spent time in the middle of last week working on inbounds plays against Mountaineers pressure.

And even though Kansas, which starts four guards, would seem well-equipped to handle the relentless West Virginia defensive attack, Self warned otherwise. After all, Kansas visited Morgantown the last four years with the player who would become the nation’s best by his senior season, point guard Frank Mason.

“Frank handles it better than the (current) four guys combined almost and we’ve had problems,” Self said.

The Jayhawks have lost four straight in Morgantown, the previous two by double digits. Andrew Wiggins scored a freshman school-record 41 and Kansas lost there. No Big 12 team has a longer winning streak on its home floor against Self’s Jayhawks than West Virginia.

If West Virginia is as good as or better than projected, how about the Jayhawks?

They’re coming off a week in which they sweated out home victories over two teams — Iowa State and Kansas State — that aren’t ranked. A week earlier, Texas Tech became the first team to never trail a Self-coached team at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas’ lack of interior depth has been its biggest issue. The debut of Silvio De Sousa on Saturday was a welcome moment, but it could be weeks before he contributes productive minutes. No telling when or if freshman Billy Preston will appear in a game as the examination of his car ownership continues.

Meanwhile, West Virginia junior forward Esa Ahmad returned from a season-long suspension in Saturday’s loss at Texas Tech and scored 18 points.

The Mountaineers would have taken the league lead and perhaps command of the Big 12 with a triumph in Lubbock. As it is, West Virginia stands tied atop the standings with Kansas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma at 4-1.

Weeks remain in a league that’s shaping up as the most competitive in college hoops. Monday marks the 26th game in conference play this season and the ninth between two ranked teams. The winner will make a statement about the status quo or a changing of the guard.

Blair Kerkhoff: 816-234-4730, @BlairKerkhoff

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