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Yellow Jackets open tournament with 94-76 win over Virginia

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Anthony Morrow scored 18 points in his return to his hometown Thursday night, and Georgia Tech pulled away from Virginia late, winning 94-76 in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

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. They won their third straight and advanced to Friday night's quarterfinal against second-seeded Duke.

Sean Singletary had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Mamadi Diane added 18 points while making his first seven shots for Virginia (15-15), which lost its conference tournament opener for the second straight year.

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 in Charlottesville.

Georgia Tech finally created some separation in this one 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 61/2-minute span that followed.

Aminu started the decisive 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.

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.

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 led by more than five points.