“Be not afraid of greatness” reads a line in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It could describe the Virginia basketball team’s recent road play more than 400 years later. The Cavaliers, after all, clicked off their 12th straight ACC road win on Saturday when they dispatched Clemson, 63-43.
The 12-game road winning streak is the fourth longest in league history. UVA’s last road loss in league play came at eventual National Champion North Carolina on Feb. 18, 2017. Making the current run even more impressive is that the Hoos have won all but four of those games by double digits with an average winning margin of 14.5 points. They needed a last-second theft at Louisville in the road finale last season to send the streak into this season and also grabbed a two-point win at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which is the site of Virginia’s next road game next Saturday. First up is a date with Virginia Tech at the John Paul Jones Arena on Tuesday.
“You know the saying, you try to use it, defense travels,” Cavalier coach Tony Bennett said. “If you’re sound and your game doesn’t change regardless of the environment, it can allow you sometimes whether you are at home or on the road to just stay true to that and not become unclear on who you are. I think that’s what this team has done. Their style, how they play, they don’t get outside themselves too much and that’s an important factor.”
To keep the road streak going, the Cavaliers needed to spoil a Clemson football celebration party for the second time in three years and they got that done with a furious flurry in the second half.
The Tigers, who posted just two points in the first 10:57 of the game, climbed to within two points early in the second half at 29-27. Marcquise Reed got them there with a layup at the 17:25 mark of the second half, but he couldn’t complete the three-point play after being fouled.
The Cavaliers had a return to sender response to the building momentum, though. The visitors uncorked a 12-1 run over the next 4:12. Clemson never threatened again and UVA eventually grew the lead to 22 points over the next 14:20. De’Andre Hunter provided the first counter-punch with a 3-pointer, but a big piece of the surge came from a big man off the bench. Jay Huff made a 3-pointer, a free throw, and a layup to provide 6 of 12 points in the immediate response. Throw in a Ty Jerome triple to go with the one from Hunter and Virginia just had too many weapons to contain.
Hunter and Huff each finished in double figures. Hunter tallied 12 points to go with 7 rebounds and 1 assist, while Huff put in 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot. All of Huff’s production came during 10 second-half minutes after he did not appear in the first half.
Guy joined that duo in double figures with 13 points. All of those came in the first half as he knocked down a trio of 3-pointers that helped Virginia grow its initial lead. In fact, Guy scored his team’s first seven points to create a 7-2 margin in the first six minutes. He hit back-to-back treys just after the 6:00 mark that pushed the lead to 21-9 before Clemson clawed back in it.
The Wahoos had some balanced contributions behind those three too. Jerome ended up with 8 points and 5 assists, while Salt added 7 points and 8 rebounds. Braxton Key came off the bench with another stat-stuffer effort of 7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. Clark chipped in 5 points.
UVA saw six different players hit a 3-pointer as the team went 10 of 23 behind the arc (43.5%). Guy passed John Crotty on the all-time list as part of that group.
“They have more depth and are more versatile maybe than any team I can remember that Tony’s had,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “They just have a lot of different ways and personnel that they can beat you. They obviously can go small with the little guard [Kihei Clark], move Hunter to the four. Now they’ve got Jerome and [Kyle] Guy coming off more screens. They can play big with [Mamadi] Diakite and [Jack] Salt. Then they go to the well and bring out Jay Huff, a kid that we recruited, and he changes the game because he’s a five man that’s making threes.”
The Cavaliers’ versatility eventually helped shake off a sluggish start to the second half when they made just 2 of their first 9 shots. After that, they knocked down 11 of 22 shots to close the game.
Clemson, on the other hand, never found an offensive groove. The Tigers made just 14 of 54 shots (25.9%) in the game, which included a rough 3-of-19 outing from 3-point range (15.8%). That included an inconsequential make in the final 11 seconds. Reed finished as the only player for the hosts to reach double figures with 14 points, which came mostly from an 8-of-11 showing at the free throw line. David Skara and Elijah Thomas contributed 9 and 8 points, respectively.
The Hoos have now held seven opponents below 50 points this season. They’re 83-2 all-time under Bennett when holding teams below that mark.
“The other thing that is really hard about Virginia is there is a wearing effect when you play them because of the way they play,” Brownell said. “The South Carolina game was similar. South Carolina was in the game for a long time and then there’s a wearing effect. You’re fighting through all these screens and long possessions. You saw what Kyle Guy did in the first half when we relaxed twice. He’s got a ball up in the air and it’s going through the net. Naturally when you’re not scoring, your energy level, you lose it a little bit. … I think there was a little wearing effect on our team.”