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Big night for the little guy: Kihei Clark keys UVA win

kihei clark
Kihei Clark penetrates and scores with a reverse layup. GroganVision photo.

The numbers – 4-of-12 from the floor, four turnovers – may not make it look like Kihei Clark had a great night.

But Clark gutted things out for his Virginia team in the 61-56 upset of #5 Florida State Tuesday night in JPJ.

He got to the line – Clark was 7-of-7 at the stripe. He had four assists.

And he willed in the eventual game-winning bucket, a dribble-drive to the hoop through the teeth of the FSU defense for a layup inside of a minute to go.

The number that mattered most: Virginia put 61 on the board, five more than FSU.

“Obviously, with his size, that makes it challenging, but I thought he was excellent today,” UVA coach Tony Bennett said postgame. “He did the same stuff at Florida State, but he learned from some of his errors, and even some of his errors early on in the game, and he kept getting better and better.”

Yes, that earlier one against the ‘Noles, the 54-50 loss in Tallahassee two weeks ago.

Clark had a ghastly nine turnovers in that one, on a night that also saw him go 4-of-12 from the field.

Photo Gallery: Virginia defeats #5 Florida State

The “errors early in the game” that Bennett referenced were two early turnovers, the second leading to Bennett subbing him out at the 12:56 mark, looking to walk-on Chase Coleman for a change of pace.

Clark checked back in two minutes later, and didn’t leave the court thereafter.

He has the respect of FSU coach Leonard Hamilton.

“He might be small in stature, but he has the biggest heart in the ACC,” Hamilton said of the 5’9” sophomore. “Guys like that have that special it factor that you can’t really identify, but he has it. He was extremely confident, and I thought that his teammates fed off of him. He made the plays and kept us at bay, making it difficult for us to get it out of his hands. He was probably the biggest factor and made the difference in who won the game. You got to give him credit.”

For the bad numbers, there were good: Clark was 3-of-6 on shots at the rim, not bad for a 5’9” guy, and he had four assists, all on dribble-drives into the paint.

“There were a couple times when I drove that Braxton was able to get back doors, which allowed us to get some easy buckets, and then late, I had the up-and-under and I knew that 10 [Malik Osborne] wasn’t going to jump, and I was able to finish it,” Clark said.

“I put in the work,” Clark said. “I know that I can finish layups, so I just keep shooting them and don’t get discouraged and play with confidence.”

Story by Chris Graham

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