Virginia and Clemson have waged some defensive battles over the years with Tony Bennett and Brad Brownell in charge. On Saturday afternoon, their teams took a different approach as an offensive showdown broke out at Littlejohn Coliseum instead.
The style change didn’t derail the Hoos, though. The Cavaliers won their sixth straight game against the Tigers, prevailing 77-73. It’s the second ACC road victory for UVA, which stands at 3-2 in league play and 13-3 overall.
”Very big … to come in here and get a win in a charged environment ,” Bennett said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. ”To come in here and the guys to rally and come away with a hard-fought win, we’re very thankful.”
”That’s a tough way to lose one,” Brownell said. “We played well in a lot of spurts. If you would have told me we were going to score 73 and force Virginia into 16 turnovers, I would have told you we would have won the game. But it didn’t happen.”
Prior to Saturday’s game with these two coaches at the helm, the two teams broke 70 points only once … combined. That came in Virginia’s 78-41 win on Feb. 7, 2013. Clemson’s previous high water mark came in a 69-62 loss to the Hoos last season. Overall the nine games had averaged scores of 60.6 to 54.1.
The 10th meeting looked like a shootout by comparison. The two teams not only surpassed 70 points each, they did so behind some blistering shooting numbers. UVA knocked down 58% of its shots (29-50), including 55.6% of its 3-pointers (10-18) in a winning effort. CU hit 50% of its shots (28-56), but just 36.8% of its 3-pointers (7-19) in the loss. The Tigers made up the difference in long-range shooting with points off turnovers (23-11) and second chance points (13-6).
Fittingly, the teams’ senior stars led the charge. Jaron Blossomgame, a continual thorn in the Cavaliers’ side, tallied 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. He added 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocked shot as well. London Perrantes answered in a big way for Virginia, pouring in 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting to go with 2 assists. Perrantes knocked down 4 of 8 3-point attempts, including a corner shot that snapped a 70-70 tie with less than 2:00 to go.
Perrantes scored 8 points in the game’s final 4:06. In addition to the go-ahead 3-pointer, he drove for a tough layup with 40.7 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game. That helped set his season-high for points, eclipsing the 24-point effort just six days ago against Wake Forest. He has scored in double figures for four straight games.
”I’m just trying to get into a mode where I feel like nobody can stop me,” Perrantes said on the Virginia Sports Radio Network. ”I want to be able to create myself as well as create for other people, but especially when it comes down to the last couple of seconds I want the ball in my hands to be able to create for myself and get a good shot. I did and knocked them down.”
With some uncharacteristic struggles with turnovers – 16 set a new season-high after 14 turnovers against West Virginia and Louisville – the Wahoos needed a big game from Perrantes, but it also needed others to step forward when the game turned into an offensive showdown. The visitors got that from Marial Shayok in particular with some timely contributions from Devon Hall, Darius Thompson, and Isaiah Wilkins as well. Shayok recorded 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Hall came through with 9 points despite foul trouble. Thompson scored 7 points and Wilkins chipped in 8 points while matching a career-high of 13 rebounds.
Shayok, though, created a lot of offense on a day where assists were scarce. UVA had only 9 helpers in the game so Shayok’s ability to get his own shot proved important. Plus, he snared 7 rebounds to pick up Hall’s usual production there (Hall snapped a six-game streak of 5+ rebounds with 0 boards at CU) and added 2 assist with 1 steal. He’s matched his career-high of 17 points for the second straight game and he’s on a four-game streak with double digits.
“Our individual defending is not where it needs to be,” Brownell said. “When we’re playing teams that have terrific players, we’re going to have a hard time. We had a tough time with Marial. We had several different guys guard him at different times, and he made them all struggle. We struggled with [Perrantes]. Avry [Holmes] is one of our better defenders and he had a hard time guarding him. Some of it is their motion. It’s the way they run offense. They grind you and they’re so patient.”
Virginia responded to two straight losses with back-to-back ACC wins. The Cavaliers return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Boston College. That game is scheduled for 8 p.m on the ACC Network.