The Virginia Cavaliers had no answer for Clemson's Milton Jennings, who hit a career high five 3-pointers in leading the Tigers to a 59-44 victory in a game that got away from the Hoos midway through the second half.
After a well-executed win over North Carolina to open conference play, Virginia (11-5, 1-2 ACC) has lost its last two and falls to the bottom half of the conference. Meanwhile, Cleamson (9-6, 1-2 ACC) picked up its first conference win after previously losing to Duke and Florida State.
I've been saying it all week, largely out of necessity, but road games are tough to come by in the ACC. Add to this the fact that Jontel Evans basically had no out-of-conference schedule to warm up for ACC play and that Akil Mitchell rolled his foot late in the first half, and it starts to spell trouble for the young squad.
Ringleader Joe Harris was met with double- and triple-coverage all afternoon, though he still led the Hoos with 14 points. As a team, Virginia shot just 35.4% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Clemson shot 51.5% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc (five of Clemson's six treys coming from Jennings).
Notes of the miscellaneous variety:
1. Virginia got a taste of its own medicine today, falling victim to the shot clock on multiple occasions. Evans seemed to have troubles finding a way to manage the offense against Clemson's very aggressive, very effective defense, which forced nine turnovers in the first half. Until Evans is able to improve his decision-making ability with under 10 on the shot clock, this team will continue to struggle.
2. That said, Evans started getting into a little bit of a rhythm in the second half, finding ways to drive into the lane and kick it out to some of our long- and mid-range shooters for open shots. The shots weren't going in, but they had good looks, and that's credit to Evans. Notwithstanding the stats, Virginia has 3-point shooting talent, particularly coming from Harris and Evan Nolte, among others.
3. Fouls on fouls on fouls. Virginia sent Clemson to the charity stripe a whopping 27 times, compared to their own eight. Big man Devin Booker, whose FT shooting percentage lies in the 50s, made 9 of 12 today, and there's not much you can do about that. Except there is. Virginia made a lot of careless fouls to send the Tigers to the line, including once on a three. Clemson likes to get the ball inside, and Virginia likes to pack it tight under the bucket, so there's a lot of traffic going on in there, but that was hardly an excuse.
4. Going back to Evans, the point guard only took one attempt today, which he made. Really there were two, but freshman Justin Anderson made a freshman mistake in an offensive interference call on a ball that was going in anyway. I'm not concerned about this. Evans has never been a strong three-point shooter, and all day long the paint was congested. I am more concerned about his five turnovers to three assists, a ratio that's entirely off for a veteran point guard.
The ACC season is a long one and there are still 15 games to go. It's not going to be a smooth ride, this we've learned already. But for a young team suffering injuries and trying to bounce back from a year of relying exclusively on Mike Scott (unnecessary Mike Scott reference - drink!), there's no telling what the ending of this story will be.
The Hoos will get a much-needed week of rest before taking on Florida State at home next Saturday.