A dejected Virginia bench suffers through the 31-point loss to Clemson.
The Virginia men’s basketball team did not look like a squad that had lost seven of its last eight games Thursday night against Clemson. The bad news? It looked worse. The Cavaliers showed no sense of urgency as Clemson torched Virginia 82-51 at the John Paul Jones Arena, running the UVa’s losing streak to five games.
The Hoos, off to a 1-7 start in ACC play, went into the first media timeout up 6-5 at the 15:28 mark, but that would be their last lead of the game. Clemson took advantage of a Sean Singletary turnover and a Mustapha Farrakhan miss, getting transition lay-ups from David Potter and Clifford Hammonds to push the lead to 9-6. Adrian Joseph answered with a three to tie the game before a Trevor Booker lay-up gave the Tigers an 11-9 lead heading into the second media timeout.
“We played really good defense until the first TV timeout,” Cav coach Dave Leitao said. “They turned it over a few times, and we didn’t convert like we needed to although we had a 6-5 lead. They woke up a little bit mentally.”
That is when the clouds opened up. Clemson used seven 3-pointers in a span of the next six minutes to take control of the game. A Terrence Oglesby 3 – courtesy of a hustle play by Booker, who saved the ball from going out of bounds – at the 5:20 mark capped a 25-5 run during that span.
Not helping matters was Virginia’s care of the ball. The Cavaliers turned the ball over 12 times in the first 11 minutes.
“I knew we were going to turn it over a couple of times against their pressure,” Leitao said. “But when we did turn it over, it affected us, and mentally, we did not stay in the same type of mind frame.”
The Hoos closed the lead to 40-24 at halftime behind 15 first half points from Joseph. However, he did not receive much help. Only three other players scored for Virginia in the opening period (Singletary had six, Calvin Baker had two, and Jeff Jones had one). Clemson, meanwhile, ended the half 8 of 14 from behind the arc and the rout was on.
The second half saw more of the same from both squads. The Tigers outscored the Cavaliers 13-5 before the first media timeout to push the lead to 53-31. K.C. Rivers closed the run with another trey, giving him 27 points on the game with 15:45 to play.
Adrian Joseph was Virginia’s only offensive threat for much of the game; he finished with 19 points.
“It didn’t look pretty,” Leitao said. “Obviously, it wasn’t something that I expected to happen. I don’t think anybody in our locker room expected it to happen, but the fact that it did means that we have got to get back to basics and make the proper physical and emotional corrections to make sure that type of thing doesn’t happen again.”
Clemson did not call the dogs off until Oglesby nailed another 3 to put the Tigers up 79-41 with 5:06 left. Coach Oliver Purnell and the Tigers wanted to make sure that another miracle comeback would not occur this year.
“We brought up last year’s game before the game started, after halftime, at the three quarter mark and so forth, in terms that they were not going to quit,” Purnell said. “We were in that situation before and we need to learn that lesson in terms of letting off the throttle. If you let off the throttle at all in this league, anything can happen.”
While Virginia may not have quit, the effort and energy certainly did not seem to be there on both ends of the floor.
“I didn’t think much of it,” Leitao said of his team’s effort. “I didn’t think there was a whole lot of it.”
“I get the feeling that we’re dead,” Mamadi Diane said. “I don’t think it’s a problem I can put my finger on, but I really get the feeling that just everything’s dead.”
After the game, Singletary called a team meeting to try and sort out the issues.
“I just called a team meeting just to clear the air,” Singletary said. “The big part of the meeting was that we got to stick together and we got a lot of basketball left.”
Still, with half of the conference season passed, time is running out on the Cavaliers. Virginia needs to find an answer, and with a short turn-around before traveling to Wake Forest on Saturday, it needs to find it fast.
“I just think each individual has to search within himself to find a way out of a personal or collective situation that would make things better,” Leitao said. “Again, the only way I have ever seen it happen, I’ve been in situations like this before, you just roll up your sleeves and get back to work. You tap into the pride in which you play the basketball game for, and that’s where it starts.”