Clemson’s defense performed admirably in Charlottesville, Va., Tuesday, limiting the 13th-ranked Cavaliers to 41% shooting and only 26% from behind the 3-point line. Unfortunately, the Tigers found themselves on the wrong end of this rock fight, falling to Virginia 64-57 in a battle for third place in the ACC standings.
Virginia carries a reputation for being a relentless defensive team and Tony Bennett’s charges lived up to the billing, Tuesday, forcing 11 turnovers and holding Clemson’s starting backcourt to a combined 10 points. P.J. Hall was the most consistent threat, scoring 19 points on 9 of 13 shooting. All-Conference candidate Hunter Tyson just missed another double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Virginia clamped down early, forcing point guard Chase Hunter to initiate the offense from much further out than he’s accustomed, pressuring Clemson (21-9, 13-6) shooters into contested or off-balance attempts. At halftime, the Tigers had hit on just 9 of 28 shots from the field (32%).
Hall knocked down a short jumper to open the second half, trimming UVA’s lead to three. But the Cavs answered with a couple of runs to take a 14-point lead. Clemson fought back, cutting the lead to four in the final minute before Virginia salted the game away from the foul line.
According to most bracketologists, the Tigers NET ranking leaves them on the bubble as the regular season nears its end. That’s frustrating to Brad Brownell, “In ’18-’19, we were no. 35 in the NET and got left out because we had something like a 1-8 Quad 1 record. I think that was the year we had three no. 1 seeds (out of ACC), so weren’t playing Quad 1 teams, it was Super Quad 1 teams.”
Brownell went on to say that he thinks this season is a case of the ACC showing its depth, “I certainly think we’re tournament worthy. I think sometimes when (North) Carolina and Duke are not in the top two or three of the league, there’s a national narrative that if it’s Pitt or Clemson or Virginia Tech in or near the top three, then the league must be down.”
Clemson will look to strengthen its case for the NCAA committee as it closes out the regular season against Notre Dame, Saturday. Tipoff from Littlejohn Coliseum is scheduled for 8 p.m.