Second-ranked UVA received its first-semester grade Tuesday in front of a near-capacity crowd at John Paul Jones Arena. Passing the midpoint of the 2014-15 regular season, the Cavaliers earned its A after a nearly flawless second-half performance turned the Clemson Tigers into kittens, 65-42, leaving only Virginia and Kentucky with perfect marks in the land of Division 1 college basketball.
Last night in front of another raucous gathering in JPJA, the defending ACC champions broke open a close game at half (25-19 Virginia) with another suffocating display of defense against yet another woefully overmatched offense.
Virginia limited Clemson to just six second-half field goals, three of which came in the closing minutes of the game with UVA having long since emptied its bench. The biggest second-half dilemma for the Tigers would be, could they break the 40-point barrier, which they did in the final minute.
The Cavaliers’ demolition of the Tigers was even more impressive when fully dissecting the final-game stats. Clemson, a team that often relies on the three-point basket, was a mere 3-of-13 from beyond the arc. The mere 13 shot attempts from bonus land was even more indicative of the Virginia defense than the three successful Clemson treys. Virginia’s defense imposed its will on Clemson, holding the Tigers scoreless for stretches of 6:48, 6:15 and 5:20 throughout the game. Even an offense firing on half of its cylinders would find a way to decimate an opponent with that defensive might.
Last night’s win over Clemson showed the Cavalier fans a glimpse of what might remain on the over side of the curtain. Bolting out of the locker room in the second half UVA scored 31 points on its first 16 possessions, highlighted with nine straight possessions with scores that KO’d the Tigers.
Perhaps the most telling sign of the uniqueness of this Virginia team was that after the game not one single player or coach Tony Bennett appeared satisfied or willing to be contented with the effort.
“I thought we played at a high level,” noted Bennett. “However there are going to be games in which we have to come out of the gate better,” asserted Bennett.
Malcom Brogdon, who led Virginia in scoring with 16 points, said for sure this team is not where it wants or needs to be. “We have work to do, and we know and realize it,” remarked Brogdon. “That’s the great thing about our team, we are willing to always work harder at getting better.”
So Virginia gets a well-deserved first semester A. They have a perfect 16-0 record (4-0 in ACC play), lead the nation in defensive scoring, have incredible depth with as many as 10 contributing players, and apparently still a very high ceiling that they are aware of and more importantly willing to reach.
So 16-0, and the best is still to come.
– Column by Scott German