The first semifinal game of the 2018 ACC tournament between No. 1 Virginia and fourth-seeded Clemson did not disappoint. Virginia led by as many as 14 in the second half, but Clemson climbed back to within four points with 13 seconds left to keep the pressure on the Cavaliers. Free throws by Devon Hall down the stretch cemented the 64-58 win.
With the win, Virginia earned a spot in the championship game and will play the winner of Duke-North Carolina tomorrow night at 8:30 pm.
Kyle Guy led Virginia with 15 points, and the Hoos shot 47% from the field and 38% from three. Jack Salt was crucial for the Hoos down the stretch, finishing with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting with eight rebounds.
Clemson’s Shelton Mitchell led the way for the Tigers with 15 points, and Elijah Thomas was near unstoppable with 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting. The Tigers finished shooting 35% from the field and 20% from three, but were 19-for-23 from the free throw line.
Guy picked up right where he left off, opening the game with a three, but Gabe DeVoe answered a minute later with one of his own. Shelton Mitchell gave the Tigers their first lead at 5-3 with a jumper in the lane that hit all twine.
DeAndre Hunter, who came in for Isaiah Wilkins who left the game after a hard fall, evened things up at five, but Aamir Simms put up a gorgeous shot over Hunter on the other end. Hall tied the game once more, and a steal by Hunter led by a follow basket by Ty Jerome to give the Hoos the lead back with 15:07 to play.
Elijah Thomas tied the game up for the fourth time on Clemson’s next offensive possession, but couldn’t convert the and-one opportunity. Hall connected on a turnaround jumper, giving the advantage back to the Hoos. Shelton Mitchell hit a three and Mamadi Diakite backed his man down in the lane, giving the top-seeded Cavaliers a 13-12 lead with 12:33.
A turnover in the lane gave the Tigers a run-out, leading to an old-fashioned three-point play by David Skara and a 15-13 lead for Clemson. A free throw from Marcquise Reed gave the Tigers a three-point advantage with 11:31 to play. Mitchell intercepted a pass from Hall intended for Nigel Johnson and finished with a jumper, and DeVoe drove the lane to give the Tigers a seven-point lead at 20-13.
Diakite broke the drought for the Hoos with a floater in the lane, and Reed badly missed a three to give Virginia possession with a little momentum and a five point deficit. Hunter wasted no time, connecting on a three to make it 20-18, then got the steal and dished it ahead to Guy who left little doubt as to whether he dunked it.
Virginia forced another steal, but Hunter was fouled hard on the way to the basket by Thomas, and missed the ensuing free throws. The defense forced a long three point attempt that went out of bounds, electrifying the vocal Virginia fans in the crowd.
Hunter returned the lead to Virginia with a shot through contact, then drew the offensive foul on Skara on the other end. Jerome extended Virginia’s lead to four points with 2:59 left in the first half, then found Wilkins under the basket for an easy layup to make it 26-20.
The Hoos kept rolling with Guy connecting on his second three of the game, putting the Hoos up nine. Clemson broke an 8:25 scoring drought thanks to three free throws by Mitchell, ending a 16-0 run by the Hoos. Guy redeemed himself from the foul on Mitchell with a deep three off a screen set by Wilkins to push the gap back to nine.
Virginia finished the first half on a 19-3 run, holding the Tigers without a field goal for the last 9:32 of the half.
Guy led the Hoos over the first 20 minutes with 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting, including going 3-for-5 from three. Hunter had seven first-half points, and Virginia shot 44% from the field and 36% from three.
Clemson shot 35% from the field (18% from three) in the first half, led by Mitchell with 10 of the Tigers’ 23 points. The Tigers turned the ball over seven times, but the Hoos only got four points from them.
Thomas started the second half with a basket for the Tigers, but Wilkins was in the right spot to tip-in a three attempt by Guy that barely rimmed out. Clemson got within four at the 16:17 mark thanks to Thomas, who had all of the Tigers’ points to start the second half.
Diakite once again came up big, taking a pass from Guy and putting up a floater that hit all net. He pushed Virginia’s lead back to eight on a baseline drive that he finished with a reverse dunk, and a turnover at mid-court gave the redshirt second year back-to-back dunks and the Hoos a 10 point lead.
Another turnover forced by Virginia gave Jerome the ball and numbers. Jerome found Guy in transition, who buried the three from the top of the arc to make it 42-30 with 13:23 left.
Thomas broke another 4+ minute scoring drought for the Tigers, but was unable to hit the free throw with Clemson still trailing 44-32. Two more free throws for Clemson’s Skara made it a 10 point game with just under 11 minutes to play and was the first person not named Elijah Thomas to score in the second half for Clemson.
Nigel Johnson got on the board with a long pull-up jumper, but a foul called on Jerome gave the Tigers two more free throws and returned the lead to 10. Mitchell canned a three - just their third of the game - to bring the Tigers back within single digits at seven. Salt hit a floater in the lane to push it to 48-39 and keep the pressure on Virginia with 8:26 remaining.
Diakite was called for a technical foul off ball, sending Thomas to the free throw line where he made both to make it 48-41. On the ensuing offensive play for the Tigers, Reed laid the ball in to pull Clemson within five, but a Hunter lay-in pushed it back to seven.
Thomas couldn’t miss, hitting another shot off the glass over the long arms of Salt, but he returned the favor on the other end with his second bucket of the half. Hall forced a turnover defensively, and Salt connected once again to push the lead back to nine points with just over five minutes left.
Reed kept things close with a three pointer to bring the Tigers back within six points, but Hall answered with one of his own to keep Clemson at arm’s length. Mitchell connected from three again for the Tigers with 2:27 left.
Salt’s hot hand continued down the stretch, tipping in a miss by Hall to give the Hoos a 59-51 lead with 2:00 remaining. DeVoe made one of two free throws to bring Clemson within seven, and the Tigers started pressing. Jerome found Salt wide open for the long pass, but it was slightly off the mark. Salt somehow corralled it, finding Guy inbounds and the Hoos were able to work the ball around, finding Jerome with two on the shot clock for the long jumper.
Clemson kept the press on, but Virginia was able to break it but both Hunter and Guy were unable to make the front ends of one-and-ones. DeVoe scored in the lane with just under 26 seconds to make it 61-56.
Hall made one of his two free throws to make it a six point game, but Hunter was called for his fifth foul attempting to rebound a miss by Clemson, sending Simms to the free throw line. He connected on both, making it a four point game with 13 seconds left, but Hall made both to seal Virginia’s spot in the championship game.
Virginia will face the winner of Duke-North Carolina tomorrow night