February 29, 2016

Virginia's regular-season ACC title hopes have fluctuated from taking a hit with consecutive road losses to a serious boost by beating the conference leaders. Clemson's NCAA Tournament hopes have gone the other way with early conference promise followed by a recent letdown.

A home win against the No. 4 team in the country Tuesday night would swing that back in a positive direction for the Tigers, and if their first meeting with the Cavaliers is any indication, that's not out of the question.

While Virginia (22-6, 11-5) has won the last four meetings by an average of 18.0 points by holding Clemson (16-12, 9-7) to 50.8 points on 38.6 percent shooting and 24.2 from 3-point range, the latest was a 69-62 final in Charlottesville on Jan. 19 with the Tigers' offense giving them a chance.

Whether that happens against a team that's coming off Saturday's 79-74 home win over then-No. 7 North Carolina remains to be seen. The Cavaliers sandwiched a home victory over North Carolina State with losses at Duke and Miami.

Virginia's one game back of the seventh-ranked Hurricanes and 1 1/2 behind the Tar Heels. Virginia and Miami have two to play, while North Carolina only has Saturday's trip to No. 17 Duke remaining.

"This ACC is really tough, with us losing to Miami and trying to come back here and get back on top," guard Devon Hall said Saturday. "They're a great team and it was a great win for us with them being so talented."

Malcolm Brogdon finished with 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting on his way to ACC Player of the Week honors. The senior guard has averaged 25.3 points, shot 63.8 percent and gone 11 of 19 from 3-point range in his last three games. He scored 20 against Clemson in January and has shot 65.0 percent - 5 of 5 from deep - in the past two meetings.

"He's been terrific most all of conference play. Really most all of his career, I should say," coach Tony Bennett said. "He was as efficient as ever. ... He was real steady in a game that was important and had implications for a lot of things."

Bennett also seems to be preaching team efficiency. The Cavaliers have seen a slight dip in field-goal percentage over the last six games, but they've averaged just 8.2 turnovers.

That was one area where the Tigers more than hung with them in the first meeting, committing seven compared to Virginia's nine. Like that game, though, taking care of the ball has only done so much for Clemson over a 2-4 span with 7.0 turnovers per game.

That includes last Tuesday's 75-73 loss at Georgia Tech, which came three days after a 77-74 defeat at NC State. The problem has been opponents' 3-point shooting with those two each making 45.0 percent.

"We just don't defend like a high-level team, we just don't do it," coach Brad Brownell said.

Jaron Blossomgame continued to shine with 22 points, and the forward has averaged 25.0 in his last five. He scored 23 and hit 4 of 6 from 3 against Virginia.

Leading into that loss, Clemson had been 5-1 in the league with two wins against the top 10, though it's done all it can to erase that lately.

"This really hurts, obviously, our NCAA Tournament hopes," said Brownell, whose team finishes at last-place Boston College, so this is its last shot at another big win. "That eats at you because we've done a lot of good things this year."

The Tigers are 3-0 at home against the Top 25, while Virginia is 3-5 at unranked opponents.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)