The Clemson Tigers (16-4, 5-3 ACC) arrived in Charlottesville to take on the Virginia Cavaliers (19-1, 8-0 ACC) without the aid of their second-leading scorer and rebounder, Donte Grantham, who suffered a torn ACL in their game against Notre Dame. Despite the loss of personal, Clemson entered the game ranked a very respectable 18th in the AP Poll, providing a marquee top-20 clash, as the Hoos have climbed up to number two in the Poll.
After a tightly contested first half, which saw Clemson lead by as much as seven points, Virginia’s signature defense locked in and produced a blowout. The Hoo’s defense forced 19 turnovers, including 14 steals, blocked seven shots, and held the Tigers to a mere 13 points in the second frame of play.
The Virginia offense was led by fifth-year guard, Devon Hall, who had 14 points, along with five rebounds. Close behind was second-year guard, Kyle Guy, scoring 12 points, including two from behind the three-point line.
The first period of play saw a back and forth of scoring runs from each team. Virginia took an early 7-0 lead on 3-3 shooting, only to then give up an 11-0 run from the Clemson offense to fall behind again. Immediately after, the Hoos went on yet another 7-0 run, highlighted by a long three from Devon Hall, and a midrange jumper from redshirt freshman, De’Andre Hunter, over the reach of a defender.
Clemson responded with a quick 9-0 scoring blitz of their own to push to what would be their largest lead of the evening, with three minutes to play in the first half. The end of the period saw impressive play from an unlikely source, redshirt junior, Jack Salt. Usually known for his defensive presence, he had back to back strong plays under the rim to score four of the final six points for the Hoos, who entered the break with a narrow 27-23 lead.
The second half was one of defensive wizardry. The Hoos allowed only six points through the first 14 minutes of play and only 13 points in the entire frame. While locking down on the defensive side of the floor, Virginia turned in an impressive 34 points on 50% shooting from the field. The team had a tremendous amount of balance with ten players getting their names in the scoring column.
Virginia’s Defense Makes Up for Inconsistent Offense
The Cavaliers have never been a team to overwhelm their opponents on the offensive side of their floor. Since the start of ACC play, they’ve only eclipsed the 70-point mark once, and they’ve failed to reach 60 points twice. Against Clemson, if not for a garbage time three-pointer from first year, Marco Anthony, Virginia would have only scored 58 in the contest. The offense is spotty, without a consistent star player to rely on to put up big numbers. However, their defense more than makes up for this. Although the Hoos only had two players reach double digits, Clemson’s leading scorer managed only 11 points. When shots aren’t falling on offense, Virginia’s defensive intensity only gets stronger and they wear their opponents out. The Tigers had reached 60 points in every game they’d played this year, but fell 24 points shy of that mark when confronted with the packline defense. That is the very definition of lockdown.
The Hoos travel to Cameron Indoor in Durham, North Carolina, to take on 4th ranked, Duke on Saturday at 2:00pm. Notably, with a two game advantage, even if Virginia suffers a loss, they will still remain atop the ACC standings.