Virginia hasn’t played in the finals of the ACC tournament in two decades. In order to do so this year, it will need to knock off a newcomer to the league.
The sixth-ranked Cavaliers look to advance to the championship game for the first time since 1994 when they face Pittsburgh in Saturday’s semifinals.
Top-seeded Virginia (26-6) survived the quarterfinals despite one of its worst 3-point shooting performances against a conference opponent all season. The Cavaliers were 6 of 20 from beyond the arc (30.0 percent) in a 64-51 win over No. 9 seed Florida State on Friday.
They were second in the league in the regular season from 3-point range, making 39.5 percent of their shots during conference play. Virginia was much more efficient from inside the arc against the Seminoles, hitting 17 of 28 attempts.
"We talk about outlasting people all the time," guard London Perrantes said. "We know that nobody’s going to want to guard us 35 seconds every time down the court, so we know that if we keep running our offense, they’re going to get frustrated and we’re going to get good shots."
The win was Virginia’s first in the ACC tournament since 2010, and Saturday will mark its first appearance in the semifinals since 1995.
"I feel like we just really wanted to go out there and prove to everybody that we deserved to be here," guard Anthony Gill said. "We deserved to be the No. 1 seed."
Fifth-seeded Pittsburgh (25-8) routed Wake Forest 84-55 in the second round Thursday before upsetting 15th-ranked North Carolina 80-75 in Friday’s quarterfinals to solidify its place in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers shot better from the field against the Tar Heels (51.9 percent) than they did from the free-throw line (51.2), a main reason they almost blew a 10-point halftime lead. Talib Zanna and James Robinson led Pittsburgh with 19 points apiece.
"Usually we make our free throws, but we wasn’t that good at it," forward Lamar Patterson said. "It’s good. We know what we have to do. We know we can’t give up."
The Panthers are averaging 82.3 points during a three-game winning streak and should provide a tough test for Virginia’s defense, which ranks among the best in the nation with 55.3 points allowed per game.
The Cavaliers, though, held Pittsburgh to its second-fewest points and second-worst shooting performance (31.9 percent) of the season in their only matchup in 2013-14. Virginia won 48-45 at then-No. 18 Pittsburgh on Feb. 2 when guard Malcolm Brogdon hit a 3-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining.
"We lost at the buzzer, so that game could have went either way," Patterson said. "We can play with them or we can play with anybody in the country we feel like. So we’ll be ready to go."