Virginia Off to Best ACC Start Since 1982 - - ABC13

Virginia Off to Best ACC Start Since 1982


CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -- Virginia coach Tony Bennett was so excited about his team's first win at Clemson in seven years, he wanted to scream in celebration and pump his fists with his players in the locker room.

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He didn't, though. That's not how the 17th-ranked Cavaliers built their longest win Atlantic Coast Conference win streak in 32 years and isn't how Bennett believes they'll go forward.

Joe Harris had 16 points, including a critical 3-pointer with about three minutes left, and Virginia won its ninth straight ACC game for the first time since Ralph Sampson dominated the middle there in 1981-82.

It also snapped a four-game losing streak at Clemson, enough reason for some postgame hoopla.

"But I said, nah," Bennett said with a smile. "Just told them, 'Great win. Hard fought. Made plays down the stretch.'"

That's keep with Bennett's steady approach at success. It's a stepladder, he tells his players, where you must carefully climb. "You put two feet on that step and everything you've got," he said. "That's the most important one."

The Cavaliers (21-5) moved to 12-1 in ACC play, also for the first time since Sampson's days. Not that it came easily as Virginia's No. 1 defense was matched up against a team in Clemson that ranked second nationally in fewest points allowed.

The Tigers (15-9, 6-6) trailed 49-48 on Rod Hall's layup with 3:38 to go. That's when Harris struck for a 3 and Anthony Gill followed with a three-point play for a 55-50 lead.

Clemson closed to 59-58 on K.J. McDaniels' 3 with 20.7 seconds left, but Malcolm Brogdon made two foul shots as the Cavaliers held on.

McDaniels had 24 points before fouling out in the final seconds. He was Clemson's only player in double figures.

"It does get to a point where we've got all step up as a team," Tigers forward Austin Ajukwa said. "One person can't do everything. We've got to step up and fill our roles."

Virginia's players have done that

Brogdon and Mike Tobey had 14 points each. The 6-foot-10 Tobey was a force underneath, making seven of nine shots. Gill had 12 points for the Cavaliers.

Virginia continued a roll the school hadn't seen since Sampson's stellar days. The Cavaliers also won a sixth ACC road game, the first time that happened since Sampson's senior year.

The Cavaliers had already clinched their third consecutive winning mark in ACC play, something they last achieved in -- you guessed it -- during Sampson's final three seasons.

That's got fans back home excited about what's accomplished and counting on bigger things ahead. Brogdon said it gets hard to navigate at times with fan recognition and the delight they take in each victory. "I think as long as we can really block that stuff out, we'll continue to play at a high level," he said.

Virginia came in with the nation's top defense, allowing just 55.5 points a game this season.

But Clemson's defense is right behind, second nationally at 55.7, and stood strongly against the Cavaliers over the first 20 minutes.

The Tigers showed some scoring punch early, making their first six shots and eight of their first 12 to lead 21-14 after DeMarcus Harrison's 3-pointer with 8:30 left in the half.

That's when Virginia turned things up on both sides of the ball during a 12-0 run to move in front. Harris, who missed two foul shots moments earlier, had a driving layup to start the Cavaliers' charge, then hit a pair of 3-pointers -- the last which put Virginia in front for the first time, 24-21.

Virginia eventually pushed the lead to 29-23 when Clemson rallied back with a three-point play and short banker by McDaniels.

Harris missed a step-back 3, but Tobey had the strong tip in right before the horn sounded and Virginia went to the locker room ahead 31-28.

Virginia shot 63.6 percent (14 of 22) in the opening half, while Clemson -- 14th of 15 ACC teams in field goal percentage -- was 11 of 22 for 50 percent.

The Tigers were playing at home for the just the second time in four weeks after a gauntlet of road games (at Pittsburgh, at North Carolina, at Florida State, at Syracuse and at Notre Dame) where they went 1-4 with the lone win coming at FSU. Clemson ended the stretch with a 68-64 double overtime loss to the Irish.

Clemson played without starting center in 6-foot-10 Landry Nnoko, who was out with the flu. Without him, the Tigers managed only five rebounds in the opening half.


Team Notes (courtesy of UVa)
• The Cavaliers' 12-1 record marks their best ACC start since opening the 1981-82 season 12-1 in league play.
• Virginia has its first nine-game ACC winning streak since 1981-82.

• Virginia gained its sixth ACC road win for the first time since 1982-83.

• Virginia recorded its first win at Clemson since Jan. 28, 2007.

• Virginia has 12 ACC wins for the first time since 1994-95 (12-4).

• With 12 ACC wins, Virginia became the second ACC school to improve its ACC record in five consecutive seasons (Georgia Tech under Bobby Cremins from 1982-86).

• Mike Tobey's tip-in at the halftime buzzer marked the fifth time UVa has accomplished the feat in ACC play and sixth overall.

• Virginia had the same starting lineup (Perrantes, Brogdon, Harris, Mitchell and Tobey) for the 13th consecutive game (extending the longest streak with the same starting lineup in the Tony Bennett era).

• The starting lineup up Perrantes, Brogdon, Harris, Mitchell and Tobey is 16-1.

Player Notes
• Mike Tobey (14 pts) reached double figures for the ninth time this season (18th career).
• Joe Harris (16 pts) scored in double figures for the 17th time this season (86th time in his career).

• Anthony Gill (12 pts) scored in double figures for the ninth time this season.
• Malcolm Brogdon (14 pts) has scored in double figures in all 13 ACC games (19th time this season overall, 24th time in his career).


Virginia Career Record Book
• Joe Harris (1,562 pts) moved past Travis Watson (1,546 pts, 2000-03) into sole possession of 14th place on Virginia's career scoring list

• Harris (241 3-pointers) moved past Harold Deane (237 3-pointers, 1994-97) into sole possession of second place on Virginia's career 3-pointer list 


Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell

Overall thoughts:

"Disappointing loss, but I'm obviously really proud of our players. I thought our guys fought really hard and played well in a lot of ways. Credit Virginia for the way they played late in the game. Their execution offensively was really good. They finished the game like a team that is 12-1 with 21 wins and played on the road with very good poise. (Malcolm) Brogdon made six free throws down the stretch, any one of which a miss or two here would have given us an opportunity to tie and really get it going. But again, I'm proud of our players for the way they played today, I thought we executed very well, we only had five turnovers and I thought we gave ourselves a chance to win."


On K.J. McDaniels' performance in two losses this week:

"It's frustrating for all of us. We do a lot of things for K.J. to get him the ball, and lucky for us he usually comes through. That's what you want for a player, he wants that. It's frustrating and challenging to play like that and lose two games by a possession or two.  It's one or two plays every game. The hard part is to keep fighting, but we will try and regroup and play well Tuesday."


On missing Landry Nnoko:

"Its obvious Landry would have helped us, but I don't like talking about that because it takes away from the players that do play. Those guys fought today and did some good things for us, Josh (Smith) and Sidy (Djitte), and competed hard. We were in position to win without Landry, but we just didn't get it done."


On UVa starting cold in the second half:

"You know that Virginia is too good of an offensive team with too many good players to shoot that bad. Our defense had something to do with it, but they missed some shots. This is a very talented team we are playing; they have only lost at Duke in the league. They went to Pittsburgh and won.  They're pretty good.  You're playing a team that plays with so much confidence. They can tell they are having a great year, and didn't once get rattled throughout the game. We couldn't get the shots down the stretch we needed, to get the lead or tie it."


Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett

Overall thoughts:

"I thought Clemson came out ready. Coach (Brad) Brownell did a good job. It wasn't that we weren't ready, but we weren't as sharp as we needed to be and they scored 5 or 6 of their first possessions. We caught a break without (Landry) Nnoko playing. He's a big factor defensively and he's improving offensively. They did a really good job without him. It came down to us having to make some really good plays down the stretch. You don't get anything easy against Clemson's defense. They got stuff early but then I think the game settled down into that hard-fought battle that we all expected it would be."


On winning on the road:

"Every time you taste success or do something well, that's a good deposit that you need and I think you can draw on that and not be rattled or flustered. Our radio guy, Tedd Jeffries, said we looked a little frazzled at times and I think we did but in a game like this, with the defense they play, you're going to have some rough spots. We didn't turn it over as much in the second half and we controlled the glass."


On the play of Mike Tobey this afternoon:

"With Nnoko not being there, we thought we had a little bit of a mismatch. They have some defenders inside without him, but not like Nnoko, at least not in this stage of their career, with all due respect. But with Mike, we knew if we could get him in deep position then we'd have a chance to capitalize. He was ready and barring a few miscues defensively, we liked what we saw."


On Malcom Brogdon's free throws at the end of the game:

"He was very poised and he has a quietness in his mind when he steps up there. It was significant because they hit a big three to bring it within reach. It was a battle. We knew it would be a tough game and we knew we'd have to bring it and compete like heck to be in this. That was the mindset."

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