With Virginia having the mid-week off, all eyes were on the matchup with Clemson. It was a tough spot for Virginia as their game with the Tigers came on the heels of a parade to celebrate the Tiger football team’s national championship win earlier in the week. But the Hoos came prepared and staved off mistakes, a hot shooting Clemson squad, and Jaron Blossomgame to come away with the all-important ACC road win. Let's take a look at the good, the bad, and what to watch for...From the Rafters.
Hoos win a “shootout” - With all things considered, an ACC game on the road; a hyped up crowd; a game played at a “high” pace; and 150 points scored between the two teams this should have been a game the Hoos lost. But credit the team for shooting 58% from the floor (their highest in the ACC this season) and matching the Clemson Tigers basket for basket en route to a 77-73 win. The game marked season highs in numerous pace related categories for Virginia including possessions. The 65 were the highest of any Virginia game in regulation this season. The 73 points scored by the Tigers was also the most Virginia has given up all season in regulation. But Virginia was efficient all game scoring 1.18 points per possessions and parlaying 10 three pointers into a 68% effective field goal rate. It’s the type of performance a team can’t count on when on the road, but one they’ll be happy to have and escape with the win.
Anything you can do, I can do better - Coming into the game, it was Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame who figured to be the key factor in the game. And Blossomgame shook off some early game rust to have a very good game, but it was Virginia’s London Perrantes who stole the show. The senior guard scored a season high 25 points, but it was how and when he scored those points that stands out. With about five minutes to go and Virginia clinging to a three point lead, the Clemson star began to heat up. On two straight possessions Blossomgame scored and with 4 minutes left he threw down a thunderous dunk that ignited the crowd. Perrantes immediately answered with a step back three as the shot clock wound down. Then after both teams failed to score on their next possessions, Blossomgame drove, drew a foul on Devon Hall, and converted the and-one to tie the game 70. At that point, the roof was about to pop off Littlejohn Colisseum. As only Cali-cool can, Perrantes came down and drilled the dagger, a three pointer that put Virginia up 73-70 and silenced the Clemson crowd. Virginia would get another stop and it would be Perrantes who then delivered the knockout blow. After holding the ball at mid-court to eat some clock with under one minute to go, Perrantes saw an opening, crossed over Clemson’s Avry Holmes and drove right at Blossomgame throwing a left handed shot off the glass to give the Hoos a 75-70 lead and all they would need for the win. It was the effort Virginia needed out of its star and erased any doubt that Perrantes has what it takes to carry this team when they need him.
Shayok’s sweet stroke - It’s been an up and down year for Marial Shayok, but quietly he’s come on strong in ACC play scoring in double figures in the last four games. And it’s his sweet pull up jump shot that has carried him. On the season, Shayok shoots a whopping 47.5% of his shots from inside the arc, but not a the rim. It’s not exactly the highest percentage shot, but Shayok has all but perfected it. Against Clemson on Saturday, he shot 6-for-9 on such shots on his way to 17 points. The shot is lethal as it makes the defense account for him on the dribble drive which Shayok can take advantage of and get an easier layup one or two times per game when the defense over pursues the shot. Shayok played a season high in minutes after drawing his second start of the year, and gives the Hoos another weapon on offense to go with Perrantes and Kyle Guy from three and Hall and Darius Thompson driving to the hoop.
Turnovers - As noted in the good section, it’s amazing that the Hoos were able to win on the road playing such a frenetic pace. What’s even more amazing is that they won despite turning the ball over 16 times. That was their highest turnover mark on the year, good for a 24.6% turnover rate. That’s a far cry from the 16% rate Virginia averages on the season. What was most startling about the turnovers though was their sloppy nature as well as the timing. Many could have been avoided and others came as Virginia was pulling away or trying to ice the game. Clemson is one of the better teams at turning teams over and it was a road game, but the Hoos have to be better and were lucky to escape this time.
What to watch for
Hoos must stay focused - Nothing comes easy in the ACC, but Virginia does get as easy a stretch of games as there is in conference when they travel to Boston College on Wednesday and host Georgia Tech on Saturday. While the two were picked to finish last in conference both have come up with big wins already on the year. Boston College, who was winless in conference play last season, already has wins over Syracuse and NC State. While Georgia Tech knocked off North Carolina and Clemson. After that, the season is a grind with trips to Notre Dame and Villanova up next. So, while it's hard to call any game a must win, if Virginia is going to compete for the top spot in the ACC this year, these are the games they can't let slip away.
Virginia travels to Chestnut Hill Wednesday night to take on the Eagles in a game that tips at 8 P.M. and can be seen on the ACC Network. Then Saturday the Hoos welcome the Yellow Jackets for a 2 P.M. start that can also be seen on the ACC Network. Until then, stay with Streaking the Lawn and as always, Go Hoos!