Home Virginia guts out 66-65 win at Clemson: The near-heart attacks, just a coincidence

Virginia guts out 66-65 win at Clemson: The near-heart attacks, just a coincidence

Chris Graham
reece beekman uva clemson
Photo: UVA Athletics

OK, great win, season-defining, to this point, win for Virginia. But can we just vent a little here for a quick sec, now that our hearts are back to normal rhythm?

That 66-65 win at Clemson, which did everything but complete a comeback from as many as 12 down, could have been, should have been, closed out well before that Jack Clark three, which was straight on, just a tad bit long, missed at the buzzer.

Jake Groves, who had 17 points on the afternoon, was 7-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-4 from three, everything he throws at the rim looks good, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19.9 seconds left, Virginia up four, able to maybe put it away with the expected two makes.

OK, so, then, Clemson gets the ball down the floor, calls timeout, sets up a play, it takes forever to get the ball to PJ Hall from three.

Hall was 1-of-6 from three, 4-of-16 from the floor.

He misses, the ball bounds into the air, game’s over.

Jordan Minor, who played a just magnificent game, the reason that Hall had been so bottled up, fouled Hall, who was shooting a three.

Hall made all three with 7.4 seconds left to get the margin to one.

Virginia can’t get the ball inbounds, calls a timeout, Tony Bennett has Isaac McKneely, an 88 percent free-throw shooter, as the inbound man.

Dante Harris, 8-of-15 at the line on the season, is, not surprisingly, the guy Clemson coach Brad Brownell decides to leave open.

Ball goes to Harris, he misses the front end.

The mistake here: Brownell, with timeouts in his pocket, decided to play it out.

He didn’t necessarily want a three-pointer from Jack Clark, a 27.8 percent shooter from behind the arc on the season, to win the game, but that’s what materializes.

Clark’s shot was straight on, just hit the back iron, bounded out, game over.

Weird, weird finish to this one, dating back to Clemson’s last make from the field, the lone three from Hall, with 5:36 to go, which gave the Tigers their first lead since the opening minutes.

Clemson missed its last five shots from the field, but hung around by getting whistles, and going 8-of-10 at the line.

Virginia got the lead, as it turns out for good, on a McKneely midrange jumper with 4:28 to go that made it 58-57 ‘Hoos.

It was 60-59 inside two and a half to go when McKneely got the ball off a screen set by Groves, hit a contested three, and was fouled by Chase Hunter.

The free-throw make put the score at 64-59 with 2:11 on the clock.

The basket of the game for Virginia was a Ryan Dunn tip-in of a Minor miss with 37 seconds left that made it 66-62 Cavaliers.

That was what set up the late-game back-and-forth.

Huge win for UVA, which has now won six straight, and will either be in sole possession of second place, with a UNC win in tonight’s Carolina-Duke game, or in third place, but just a game out of first, with a Duke win.

Unfortunately, they both can’t lose, but anyway.

Back to Littlejohn Coliseum, where Virginia led 34-26 at the break, on the strength of 13 first-half points from Groves, who was 5-of-7 from the floor, 3-of-4 from three in the opening 20 minutes.

A McKneely layup at the 18:37 mark pushed the lead to 38-26, but Clemson, from there, would chip away, chip away, chip away.

McKneely had the kind of day that you actually want to see more of – 14 points, but just one make from three, on 1-of-5 shooting.

iMac was 4-of-8 on midrange jumpers, which is significant because, coming into the game, he had been shooting just 32.4 percent in the midrange.

Virginia, as a team, was 11-of-24 (45.8 percent) on midrange jumpers; coming in, the ‘Hoos had been shooting 38.1 percent in the midrange.

Beekman finished with 14 points, but on 5-of-17 shooting, and four assists in 36 minutes.

There was an odd issue with assists that had to be something to do with whoever it is does the official scoring at Clemson – Virginia had just nine assists on its 26 made baskets (34.6 percent); on the season, UVA is averaging assists on 63.5 percent of its makes.

It’s not like, all the sudden, Virginia just became a dribble-drive machine.

Minor had nine points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes. Dunn had five points and 10 boards in 27 minutes.

Hall, despite his shooting woes, led all scorers with 19 points, by being gifted 12 free-throw attempts, of which he made 10.

As big a win as this was for UVA, it was that big a loss for Clemson, which is now 4-6 in the ACC, and if the season ended today, which it doesn’t, but still, the Tigers would be playing on Tuesday in the ACC Tournament.

But Joe Lunardi has them safely in the NCAA Tournament, and Virginia well on the outside looking in.

Some bracket expert he is.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].