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Tech men cruise past Cavaliers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Paul Hewitt watched Virginia knock down long-range shot after long-range shot against his Georgia Tech team.

Then, he urged his players to pick up the pace, and suddenly, the Cavaliers didn't have enough energy to keep scoring.

Charlotte native Anthony Morrow and Jeremis Smith each scored 18 points Thursday night, and the Yellow Jackets pulled away from Virginia late, winning 94-76 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

'We just told our kids, 'Keep the tempo going (and) hopefully their legs will leave them,' Hewitt said. 'They started missing some shots.'

Jeremis Smith also scored 18 points for the seventh-seeded Yellow Jackets (15-16), who shot 56.9 percent - the team's best in league tournament play - and knocked down 54 percent of their 3-pointers, making a season-high 13 of them.

It helped them win their third straight and advance to tonight's quarterfinal against second-seeded Duke, which beat Georgia Tech 71-58 last month in a slower, much more physical contest than either team typically prefers.

'We're going to try to push the pace,' Hewitt said. 'I'm sure they will, too.'

Sean Singletary had 20 points and 10 assists before the senior scorer exited to a standing ovation in the final moments. Mamadi Diane added 18 points while making his first seven shots - and then missed his final six - for 10th-seeded Virginia (15-15), which lost its league tournament opener for the second straight year.

'I was trying to be aggressive as I can, but we just weren't able to stick together and pull together in tough times,' Singletary said.

Maurice Miller and Zack Peacock added 14 points apiece and Alade Aminu finished with 11 for the Yellow Jackets, who avoided their third straight opening-game loss since they fell to Duke in the 2005 championship game. They did it with yet another strong shooting game against the Cavaliers; they shot 51 percent in a 92-82 overtime victory two months ago on Virginia's home court.

'If we did not play them earlier in the year in Charlottesville, I would have been worried,' Hewitt said.

Georgia Tech rallied from a brief five-point deficit and finally created some separation midway through the second half. After Singletary tied it for the last time when his jumper in the lane made it 59-59 with 11:43 left, the Cavaliers were held to one field goal during the 6 1/2-minute span that followed.

'The big thing for us was to defend and keep the ball out of Sean's hands as much as we possibly could,' Hewitt said.

Alade Aminu started the decisive 17-5 run 20 seconds later, sticking back the miss of Miller's 3 to make it 61-59. The Yellow Jackets came up with points on eight of their next nine trips downcourt, and Aminu capped that spurt with a fast-break dunk to make it 76-64 with 7:21 to play.

'Pushing the tempo is all about teamwork,' Smith said. 'It starts on the defensive end with making stops and getting rebounds. Then, that leads into offense. Big men have to run down the floor hard (because) that contributes a lot to pushing the tempo. And the guards have to also push the ball up the floor. With that, we develop the fast speed and the pace we want to play at.'

Lauryna Mikalauskas ended the Cavaliers' drought with a layup with 5:12 remaining that made it a 76-67, but Virginia didn't get any closer than that in losing for the third time in five games.

'It was going to come down to who was going to string together a few defensive sequences that would allow you to dictate the rest of the game,' Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. 'Once we were up five or down five or whatever the case may be, there was never a feeling that we were taking control of the game that way.'

The Yellow Jackets' decisive run broke open a tight game that featured 14 lead changes in the opening 20 minutes. At one point, the lead changed hands on nine consecutive baskets, and neither team led by more than five points in the first half.