Jayden Gardner had 17 points and 10 rebounds and No. 13 Virginia handed North Carolina a potentially devastating 68-59 loss in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Thursday night in Greensboro, N.C.
Reece Beekman added 15 points, five assists and five steals for the second-seeded Cavaliers (24-6), who will face either Clemson or NC State in the semifinals on Friday night. Armaan Franklin chipped in 14 points.
Virginia shot 49.0 percent from the field and held North Carolina to 35.8 percent shooting. The Cavaliers compiled a decisive 14-2 edge in points off turnovers.
The seventh-seeded Tar Heels (20-13), who were No. 1 in the preseason Top 25, are in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
North Carolina got 24 points from R.J. Davis but was doomed by an ineffective Caleb Love and an injured Armando Bacot.
Love finished with 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting, including 2-for-10 from behind the arc. Bacot, who hurt his left ankle in Wednesday’s 85-61 second-round win over Boston College, was limited to four points in 21 minutes.
Virginia opened the second half with a 10-3 run to build a 35-27 advantage.
Kihei Clark’s jumper extended the Cavaliers’ lead to 51-41 with 9:10 to play.
A 3-pointer by Love with 4:36 left cut Virginia’s lead to 55-50, and a three-point play by Davis got the Tar Heels within 57-55 with 2:02 left.
The Cavaliers iced the win at the foul line with four free throws by Clark and five by Gardner down the stretch.
The game got off to a sluggish start, with North Carolina taking a 9-5 lead with 11:38 left in the first half.
Virginia took its first lead at 14-13 on Isaac McKneely’s 3-pointer with 7:28 remaining. It was part of an 11-0 run.
Beekman’s 3-pointer with 4:24 left gave the Cavaliers their largest lead of the half at 23-15.
The Tar Heels trimmed their deficit to 25-24 at the half behind late 3-pointers by Leaky Black and Davis.
Virginia played without Ben Vander Plas, who is out for the season with a broken right hand. He sustained the injury in practice Wednesday. The senior forward averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 29 games (15 starts).
–Field Level Media