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Cavs Smother Tigers from Start to Finish

Joe Harris' 21 points led the Cavaliers to a dominant 78-41 win over Clemson. (Staff photo)

Looking to rebuild momentum after a tough loss at the hands of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and seeking to avenge a 15 point loss at Littlejohn Coliseum in January, the Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball team steamrolled the Clemson Tigers for a 78-41 victory.  The Cavaliers improved to 6-3 in the ACC and 16-6 on the season.

An ice cold start for the Cavaliers from long range, missing nine consecutive attempts in the first 18 minutes, was outmatched by 12 Clemson turnovers in the same stretch.

With freshman Mike Tobey and sophomore Darion Atkins ruled out before the start of the game, forward Akil Mitchell was the lone big man on the Cavalier roster and had an integral role in stopping the Clemson offense.  Playing every minute in the first half, Mitchell also led the offensive charge with guard Joe Harris.

“Akil was going to be our only guy who is a true match-up for [Devin] Booker…I was concerned because of our lack of size and interior players,” head coach Tony Bennett said.

The combination of sloppy play by the Tigers and the methodical pace and suffocating defense Virginia is known for was not a good one for Clemson, who ended the first half with a total of ten points – the fewest first half points scored by a Virginia opponent since 1981.

“I thought we really came out and started the game with great intensity,” Bennett said.

Cavaliers guard Joe Harris individually outscored the entire Clemson team with his 14 points at the break.  With a 38-10 lead at halftime, Virginia simply did not leave enough possessions left for Clemson to make a comeback.

“We got off to a big lead and Clemson was out of sorts, but that was probably the most unselfish game we have played all year,” Bennett noted, as the Cavaliers finished with 17 assists.

Freshman guard Justin Anderson brought a ton of energy on the defensive end with three steals and a block.  Commenting on surrendering just ten first half points, Anderson said, “That’s our foundation: defense.  That’s our goal; that’s what we try to do.”

The Wahoos cruised in the second half, leading by 41 at one point, with Anderson making highlight reel passes and slamming home a thunderous alley-oop from Jontel Evans, and freshmen Evan Nolte and Taylor Barnette combining for five threes in the second half alone.

Harris led Virginia with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, and two assists, while Mitchell added 16 points, six rebounds, and four steals.

K.J. McDaniels led the Tigers in scoring with 10 points and was the only Clemson player to reach double figures.

With the victory tonight, Virginia improves to 8-0 on the season when holding opponents under 50 points and 31-2 in the Bennett era when scoring 70 or more points, as well as setting a home win-streak record at John Paul Jones Arena with their thirteenth straight.

The Cavaliers now travel to College Park to take on Maryland on Sunday.

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