PITTSBURGH — No. 1 Virginia used a selfish defense to dominate Pittsburgh 66-37 at Petersen Events Center and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright on Saturday.
“We got off to a good start and we tried to not let up in any way,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said.
Freshman De’Andre Hunter jumped off the bench to finish with a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds and Ty Jerome added 13 points for the Cavaliers (26-2, 15-1 ACC), who allowed just seven points in the first half.
“De’Andre was engaged, and that was a challenge for everybody to be engaged with a heightened sense of focus,” said Bennett.
“He’s been having a really good year. We play him some at the three, some at the four. He’s aggressive.”
Reserve guard Nigel Johnson ended with 12 points for Virginia, which shot 51-percent from the field and went 8-for-16 from 3-point range.
Parker Stewart paced Pittsburgh with 12 points, which all came from 3-pointers.
The Panthers (8-22, 0-17 ACC), who are still without a win in conference play after 17 games, shot just 24-percent from the field and were outscored 28-8 in the paint and were out-rebounded 36-24.
“That wasn’t any fun,” Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. “Virginia is the real deal, if they are healthy. They had a couple guys who were banged up towards the end of the game.
“I thought on film that it was the best Virginia team that I have seen, at least since Tony [Bennett] has been there, and he would have a much better opinion on that than me. Defensively, they just don’t have weaknesses and make it very difficult for you.
“I thought we were a little intimidated in the first half, which surprised me because we have not shown that so much, I don’t think.”
“….We missed some layups, we missed some stuff right around the goal there, but you don’t get many good shots against them,” he added.
Virginia, which led by as many as 31 points early in the second half, rested most of its regulars in the second half, as coach Bennett used the opportunity to empty his bench with his team cruising to its 15th victory in 16 conference games.
Even though the Cavaliers have already won the regular season title, Bennett expects his team remain focus as it looks ahead to bigger things.
“We’ve got to keep playing to the best of our abilities,” Bennett said. “We’re going to try to improve, try to prepare the right way and play to win. We cannot get more complicated than that.
“We got the one seed last game and I said `You’re not starting over – let’s push, let’s be as good as we can and try to compete.’ But, I’m very excited for the guys that have been in this program to win an outright title, that’s no small feat.”
The Cavaliers will next visit Louisville on Thursday night hoping to extend their recent winning run in the series to five straight games.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh will close out its season at Notre Dame on Wednesday, hoping to end the term with a win and avoid a 0-18 league record this season.