It was certainly a satisfying week to be a Virginia basketball fan. First, the Cavaliers took care of business in Raleigh on Wednesday with a 71-58 win over N.C. State. Then, on Sunday, Virginia miraculously finished with a 15-0 run to edge No. 19 Clemson 64-63 at Littlejohn Coliseum.
With these two wins, the Cavaliers (13-6, 5-2 ACC) are now tied for fourth place in the ACC standings and have put themselves in a position where they control their own destiny in terms of attaining a bid to the NCAA Tournament. On Thursday night, Virginia will be looking for its second straight win over a ranked opponent when No. 8 Duke travels to Charlottesville. But before we look forward, let’s take one last look at the week that was. 1,300 highway miles later, here are Five Things I Learned Against N.C. State and Clemson.
Coach Dave Leitao has helped build this team into a resilient group.
These Are Not Last Year’s Cavaliers. During the wins over N.C. State and Clemson, Virginia showed itself to be a deeper, grittier, and more self-confident squad than last year’s 15-15 team.
Last year at Clemson, for example, the Cavaliers fell behind by as many as 25 points in the first half and were unable to mount any sort of sustained comeback attempt. But on Sunday, facing similar adversity midway through the second half, Virginia refused to roll over and die.
“[Clemson] had a 61-45 lead and in past times we didn’t have the resiliency physically or especially mentally to come back,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “In the timeout when were we’re down 52-41, I said to them “We’re down 11 but it seems like 40 because we just had no life defensively. It just didn’t look like we had the kind of energy. Lo and behold, we talked about getting three stops in a row. Tunji picked it up and got Mays and Booker off the block which made it easier for us to play help and recover. Then offensively, going to those baseline screens with J.R. and other guys feed off of it. Adrian hit three huge shots for us....
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