A 23-4 run over a 10 minute-plus stretch put Virginia in firm control, and the Cavaliers coasted from there to a too easy 76-56 win over Clemson in the ACC Tournament semifinals on Friday in Greensboro.
The win puts second-seeded Virginia (25-6) in the tournament championship game in prime time on Saturday night against fourth-seeded Duke (25-8).
That game will be a rematch of one of the more fascinating games of the 2022-2023 ACC regular season, won by Virginia, 69-62, in OT, after a disputed (by the Dookies) call at the end of regulation that you will no doubt hear the folks on ESPN and the ACC Network whine about over the next 21 or so hours.
The loss for Clemson (23-10), the tournament’s third seed, may knock the Tigers back down toward the other side of the NCAA Tournament bubble, which of course makes no sense, given that they’re a 23-win team in the ACC, but that’s how things go these days in the era of manipulated metrics, which are seriously overvaluing middling Big Ten and Big 12 teams at the expense of teams in the ACC these days.
Knowing that reality, Clemson needed a better showing than we saw tonight.
The game was relatively back and forth for much of the first half, with Virginia in control, but the Tigers hovering in the periphery of hailing distance.
A Hunter Tyson three at the four-minute mark got the margin down to 29-25 Virginia, but that would end up being the last bucket in a while for the Clemson side, as UVA closed out the half on an 8-0 run to go into the locker room up 37-25.
That run would get to 14-0, and Virginia would eventually stretch the lead to 23, at 52-29, on a Kadin Shedrick dunk at the 13:45 mark of the second half.
The closest Clemson would get thereafter would be 14, on a PJ Hall free throw with 4:43 to go that got the Tigers to within 65-51.
Kihei Clark answered with a three on UVA’s next possession to erase the sliver of doubt that may have remained among the faithful, and the Duke fans who hung around after their team’s win earlier in the night over Miami, just to hate-rage against the ‘Hoos.
Both Miami fans who had been here for that one had already long since gone home for the night.
Virginia shot a quite symmetric 50 percent in both halves, and got 23 points and 12 rebounds from Jayden Gardner, who will be on the All-Tournament team when it’s named tomorrow night.
Kadin Shedrick, who hadn’t played in a while before re-emerging from the doghouse in last night’s win over North Carolina, had another nice night – eight points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench.
Tyson had 15 for Clemson, which shot 35.8 percent.