Clemson has won three games in a row recently, but now the Tigers will really be tested — they face Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., on Wednesday night, and will try to beat the Cavaliers for the first time in 12 meetings.
Not since January 2013 have the Tigers managed to knock off Virginia.
The Cavs (7-4, 1-0 ACC), meantime, are jumping into the meat of their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule trying to find some continuity in what has already been an up-and-down season, not unlike Clemson’s campaign.
Since losing its ACC opener to Miami on Dec. 4, the Tigers (8-4, 0-1) have won three straight, most recently topping in-state rival South Carolina 70-56 on Saturday.
Hunter Tyson led the way for Clemson against the Gamecocks, as the senior notched the first double-double of his career with 18 points and a career-best 13 rebounds.
“I think he is playing like a senior,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said of Tyson. “He’s a mature guy. He understands what it takes. He wants to win and he wants to do well. He’s been a tremendous kid to coach. He’s the leader of our team.”
Defense was key for Clemson in its win over South Carolina, as the Tigers held the Gamecocks to just four assists compared to 15 turnovers, and just 5-of-20 shooting from beyond the arc.
Clemson scored 21 points off those South Carolina turnovers and outscored the Gamecocks 32-20 in the paint. Clemson’s 51 rebounds tied a high for the Tigers under Brownell, who is in his 12th season as head coach.
PJ Hall, whose 14.7-point average leads Clemson, had 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
Virginia is also coming off a victory, as the Cavaliers routed Farleigh Dickinson on Saturday, 82-49, in something of a bounce-back after they lost at James Madison on Dec. 7.
Jayden Gardner scored a season-high 29 points on 14-of-18 shooting from the floor. Gardner leads Virginia in scoring and rebounding, averaging 15.3 points and 8.3 boards.
“He plays hard. I just want him to keep getting better and better,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Gardner. “I was excited to see him keep attacking, and he’s got a great motor and his attitude is really good.”
Virginia shot an efficient 61.8 percent from the floor and 52.9 percent from behind the arc against Farleigh Dickinson. Defense is still the Cavaliers’ calling card, though, as they’re limiting teams to 55.2 points per-game this season, a mark among the nation’s best.
Last year’s 85-50 rout of Clemson was the Cavs’ biggest margin of victory in the series since the 11-game streak began on Feb. 7, 2013, when Virginia won by 37. In between, however, six of the nine margins have been in single digits.
–Field Level Media