Duke-Virginia Preview

The Associated Press

Virginia has already ended a number of lengthy droughts this season, but its 38 years between ACC tournament titles remains the longest in the conference. The sixth-ranked Cavaliers are one win shy of finally ending that slump, but in order to do so, they'll have to go through the only league foe they failed to knock off this season.

Virginia looks to avenge an earlier defeat and deny No. 7 Duke of its 20th conference tournament title in Sunday's ACC championship game.

The Cavaliers (27-6) previously owned the longest drought between outright regular-season titles among ACC schools that had won at least one, then went 16-2 in the league to win their first since 1981. They entered the week having lost eight of their last nine ACC tournament games before winning twice to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1995, ending another one of the conference's longest droughts.

Now they can claim their first ACC tournament championship since 1976, but they'll have to upend a Duke squad that has won 18 of the teams' last 20 meetings. The Blue Devils are 15-3 all-time in the ACC tournament against Virginia, including seven straight victories. Virginia's last win in a league tournament matchup was a 66-61 result in a 1994 semifinal.

Third-seeded Duke (26-7) was in danger of a 1-3 start in conference play, squandering what was an 11-point advantage in the final minute at home against Virginia on Jan. 13. However, Rasheed Sulaimon received a fortunate bounce on a go-ahead 3-pointer with 18 seconds left, helping secure a 69-65 victory for the Blue Devils.

That was one of four 3-pointers for Sulaimon, who scored a season-high 21 points and helped compensate for Jabari Parker's struggles. Parker was 3 for 11 and his eight points marked his second-lowest output of the season.

Virginia, which owns a win over every other ACC school this season, is 15-1 since, including a school-record 13 straight league victories immediately after the loss to Duke. The Cavaliers knocked off fifth-seeded Pittsburgh 51-48 in Saturday's semifinals.

Joe Harris, who scored a team-high 12, is averaging 17.6 points in five career matchups with Duke. He tallied a career-high 36 points in a win on Feb. 28 of last year.

"There's no better feeling, of course, but we'll celebrate later," said Justin Anderson, who blocked Pittsburgh's potential tying 3-pointer with 3 seconds remaining. "We're to a point where we have a chance to make a run, not just in the ACC but the NCAA tournament, and we have to ... continue to be humble. This team cherishes that and this team understands that and we'll be fine."

Duke reached its 31st ACC title game and first since winning the 2011 championship with Saturday's 75-67 victory over North Carolina State. Parker scored 20, including six during a 20-7 second-half run that gave the Blue Devils control. He's averaging 21.8 points over his last four games while shooting 51.7 percent.

"All I just remember is us winning and Rasheed coming through with a big play," Parker said when asked about his struggles in the first matchup with Virginia. "A lot of games aren't going to be won by me but by my teammates and they pull through. Hopefully, I can be there for them."

Sulaimon scored 16 against the Wolfpack but is just 5 of 17 from 3-point range over his last four contests.

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