Calvin Baker tallied a career-high 8 points in the loss to Clemson.
The second half has not been friendly to the Cavaliers this season.
Once again, Virginia fell victim to a slow start to the second half and couldn’t recover as No. 18 Clemson exploded to a 75-57 victory, avenging UVa’s upset victory in Charlottesville earlier this season.
With energy coming from all sides – Clemson’s from Senior Night and seeking revenge after Virginia’s early season upset of the Tigers and Virginia’s from the frustration of a long losing season – the game took a physical turn from the opening tip. In the game’s opening minutes, Virginia coach Dave Leitao drew a technical foul – the first of three from the Cavaliers in the contest – for being out of the coach’s box arguing the lack of fouls being called.
The early technical on Leitao only seemed to energize the Hoos, though. They dug out of an early 9-point hole thanks in large part to a hot start by Calvin Baker and several strong defensive turns early on. Baker sizzled in the first half, knocking down 12 points, but cooled off after halftime. The junior, however, registered a career-high 18 points in the loss.
Baker’s night was a microcosm of the game as the Cavaliers faded in a similar fashion after intermission. After halftime, the Cavs’ energy from the first half deflated as all too familiar offensive issues once again plagued the Hoos in the second half. Clemson’s man-to-man defense clamped down in the second half, allowing the visitors to make only 6 of 21 field goals (28%). With Tunji Soroye in foul trouble, the Tigers’ big men took their liberties in the paint, slamming home multiple dunks and easy lay-ups early in the second half. In addition, Clemson’s fullcourt press slowed Virginia’s offense, causing turnovers and more frustration.
“My fear going into the game was that they would play with a lot of energy, passion, for all the reasons that I stated before,” Leitao told the Virginia Sports Network. “Obviously, they changed a little bit of their mindset [at halftime]. … We talked a little bit at halftime about increasing our energy and cleaning up some of the mistakes we had made. It seems the combination of us making more of them and them being more focused and energized got them out to a big second half. Especially early, they got a ton of lay-ups and dunks.”
Highlighting the defensive effort, Clemson silenced Virginia’s biggest offensive threat in Sylven Landesberg . The freshman once again struggled against heavy coverage from the Tigers, scoring only 3 points with no made field goals. Landesberg produced 23 points in the home win against Clemson, but his struggles in South Carolina added to a three-game stretch of struggles. The young guard has been forcing shots for the last three games according to Leitao, but it’s all parting of the growing process.
Sylven Landesberg continued to struggle offensively against the Tigers.
“He’s been that way for the last few games,” Leitao said. “This is I think the third game in a row where he’s been guarded differently and he’s pressed. That’s just growth and I think it’s a little bit of a balance that he has to strike. He has to pick better spots and the people around him have to step up. I think he feels, as a young guy with a young mind, he feels a little bit of pressure to have to do things because he’s been doing them 80 to 90 percent of the year and now they are not as easily available to him. It’s a mental adjustment for him as much as anything.”
With the loss, Virginia became the latest victim of Clemson’s offensive prowess. The victory over the Cavaliers was the Tigers’ 8th double-digit win over an ACC foe.
UVa gets a final chance to tally a fourth ACC win on the season this weekend. The Hoos return home for the regular season finale against the Terrapins of Maryland, who is in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. Virginia’s finale will also be the final home game for seniors Mamadi Diane and Tunji Soroye .
Just as Clemson sent their seniors off with a home win Tuesday, Leitao told the Virginia Sports Network, he wishes the same for his seniors come Saturday.
“I sure hope so,” he said. “Not just for the guys on the bench or the coaches in preparation. But most anybody’s last home game, a Senior Night ends up being a significant event and you want to play your best as a result and so that’s what we’ll focus on starting tomorrow and getting ready for Saturday afternoon.”
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