The No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers used a huge second half to pull away from No. 18 Clemson for an emphatic 61-36 victory. With the win, Virginia remains perfect in the ACC at 8-0 and improve their overall record to 19-1. This is Virginia’s best start in the ACC since 1980-81 when the Hoos started 12-0.
After a thrilling first half that featured several seven and 11 point runs by both teams, the Hoos pulled away down the stretch as their stingy defense only allowed Clemson 13 second half points. Virginia shot 45% from the field, including 37% from three as the Hoos got hot late. The Virginia defense had one of their best performances of the season in the second half as they made life miserable for the Tigers.
Devon Hall led Virginia with 14 points, and Kyle Guy added 12 points. The Hoos had 14 steals, seven blocks, and forced 19 Clemson turnovers as they relentlessly hounded the Tigers. Ty Jerome had eight points - all in the second half - and grabbed four steals.
Clemson, who was playing their first game without Donte Grantham who is out for the season with an ACL tear, were outstanding defensively in the first half. Gabe DeVoe led the Tigers with 11 points, all of which he got in the first half. The Tigers shot just 25% from the field in the second half and 32% for the game, going just 3-for-20 from three.
Virginia scored 25 points off of turnovers and outscored Clemson 28-16 in the paint.
Guy opened up all scoring with a three pointer, and Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 with 17:45 to play. After Clemson head coach Brad Brownell called a timeout, the Tigers answered with a 7-0 run of their own as Gabe DeVoe made three free throws, Marcquise Reed hit a layup off a steal, and Aamir Simms hit a tough shot over Wilkins.
Clemson took the lead at 9-7 thanks to a lay-in from Elijah Thomas, and the Tigers kept rolling with another DeVoe bucket. After the initial hot start, the Hoos struggled offensively, turning the ball over four times in the first five minutes. Guy stopped the bleeding with a high-arcing shot, and Nigel Johnson forced a turnover that led to a DeAndre Hunter basket and a tie game at 11.
Hall scored his first of the game to break the tie, a beauty of a step back three, but DeVoe took advantage of a backdoor cut to make it 14-13 at the under-12 timeout. After what ended up being a nine point run that gave the Tigers a 20-14 lead, Coach Bennett called a timeout. Hall hit a bucket to make it 20-16, but a three by Simms pushed Virginia’s deficit to seven with under six to play in the first half.
The Hoos were not to be contained as they stormed back, playing ferocious defense and connecting from the field and the free throw line. Jack Salt played phenomenal defense, and pulled the Cavaliers even at 24 to cap off yet another 7-0 run. Salt missed the and-one opportunity to give the Hoos the lead, but converted a brilliant pass from Wilkins just over two minutes later for the 25-23 lead.
Virginia’s defense held strong the last 6:18 of the half, and Hall finished a strong drive to give the Hoos a 27-23 halftime lead.
Hall led the Hoos with nine points on 4-for-9 shooting in the first half, and Guy chipped in seven points. Both Salt and Hunter had four points apiece in the first half. Virginia shot 39% from the field and 22% (2-for-9) from three and had six turnovers. Defensively, the Hoos held Clemson to 39% from the field and 20% (2-for-10) from three. The Tigers had five blocks to Virginia’s four in the first half, but the Hoos had seven steals. Gabe DeVoe led Clemson with 11 first half points.
Clemson got the first points of the second half on a bucket by Simms, but Hall responded with a corner three, his second of the game, to push the lead to five at 30-25.
Reed hit a tough shot after 29 seconds of outstanding defense by Virginia, and Salt made a gorgeous turn around hook to answer. Guy made a heads-up play as he drove the baseline and used Salt as a blocker for a leaning floater, then hit a corner three to give the Hoos their biggest lead of the day at 37-27 with 12:56 to play.
In what felt like the blink of an eye, the Hoos broke a close game open. Hunter converted an old-fashioned three point play and Jerome pulled up from the U-Hall parking lot to give Virginia a 43-27 lead with 10:56 to play. Clemson scored their second bucket of the second half with 10:05 remaining off of a turnover, as Virginia’s set defense was frustrating the Tigers.
A Nigel Johnson take in the lane and another Jerome three pushed the score to 48-29 with 8:03 to play, and the crowd loved it. Coach Bennett brought the bench in with a minute remaining and Virginia got buckets by Austin Katstra and Marco Anthony to cap it off.
The Hoos head to Durham on Saturday to face No. 4 Duke. The game is at 2pm and will be televised by CBS.