Andre Young and Tanner Smith scored 13 points each and Devin
Booker had all 10 of his points in the second half as Clemson ran
past the Cavaliers, 60-48, on Tuesday night. The Tigers (13-12, 5-6
Atlantic Coast Conference) will carry a two-game win streak into
Chapel Hill, where they are 0-55.
"We haven't said anything to them about it," said Clemson
coach Brad Brownell, who couldn't escape a question or two about
his team's upcoming challenge. "They're off tomorrow. We'll come
back Thursday and formulate a plan."
Brownell certainly had a good one to handle Virginia (19-6,
6-5). The ACC's second-best scoring defense stood strong
throughout, forcing 18 turnovers (Virginia gives up fewer than 12 a
game) off 14 steals. Virginia was held to its second fewest points
this season, behind a 47-45 loss to Virginia Tech last month.
"It's huge for us to get this," Booker said. "We just knew we
had to go out and compete."
Harris came in averaging 12 points a game, but was limited to
two points on 1-of-5 shooting.
Jontel Evans led the Cavaliers and tied his career high with 17
points. But Virginia wasn't the same team without a healthy Harris.
"Without Joe, we're not much of a threat from three," Virginia
coach Tony Bennett said. "Those missed shots and turnovers are
really crucial in a game like this."
So is getting to the line, something the Cavaliers also didn't
do. Evans had the team's only free throw more with less than nine
minutes left in the game.
Bennett said Harris' struggles allowed Clemson to pack things in
around the smooth-shooting, 6-foot-8 Scott. Virginia's star also
had to deal with Tigers 6-9 forward Milton Jennings, who sat out
the team's earlier meeting because of academic issues.
Jennings presence was enough to push Scott out of his comfort
zone, Bennett thought.
With Scott further out, Booker was able to get free around the
basket in the second half. Clemson's 6-8 junior was 0-for-1 with no
rebounds in the opening period, then scored 10 with four rebounds
after the break. He also added two blocks and two steals.
The Cavaliers looked poised for a second-half charge after Evans
had a three-point play and inside bucket to cut the lead to 44-41
with 7:56 remaining. That's when Clemson got going on its charge.
Smith hit a basket to start the run, while Booker had two
baskets sandwiched between a shot by freshman Rod Hall. When Smith
made two foul shots with 1:55 left, the Tigers were ahead 54-43 and
Virginia came in missing a big part of its attack when Harris
just couldn't get comfortable playing with his injury and did not
start. When the sophomore did come off the bench, it was clear he
was favoring the wrapped-up hand. He missed his only shot and
committed two turnovers in 11 minutes of first-half action. Harris
came in averaging 12.5 points and was crucial in the Cavaliers'
65-61 win over Clemson back on Jan. 31 with 19 points off five
Having Harris at half speed seemed to affect his teammates, too.
Clemson forced 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, nearly what
Virginia gives up in a game with its 11.5 average. The Cavaliers
finished with 18 turnovers, while Clemson picked up 14 steals.
Harris' replacement in the starting lineup, Malcolm Brogdon,
picked up some of Virginia's missing touch from the outside with
seven points on 3-of-4 shooting.
Young kept the Tigers in it throughout the period. He scored the
first five points and added a second 3-pointer that put Clemson out
Young had the chance to send Clemson into the break ahead, but
he made just one of three free throws after getting fouled behind
the arc. Young had a similar situation in the Tigers previous game
at Littlejohn Coliseum, having three foul shots with 10 seconds
left that would've tied things against Maryland. Then, too, Young
made just one and Clemson lost 64-62.
Clemson offered discounted two-for ticket packages that drew a
sellout crowd to Littlejohn. Then at halftime, one of the school's
Rally Cat dancers, Nicole, said `Yes" to a marriage proposal from
her boyfriend, Tad, to the cheers of all attending.
Booker hopes there's Clemson cheering and celebrating at the
Dean Dome on Saturday. He, like his brother, Trevor, and every
other Tigers player past and present, wants to see that streak end.
"I think we can do it," Devin Booker said. "We're young, but
our game is getting better."