Scott German | Where did that come from?

Putting together its most complete effort of the season, the Virginia Cavaliers shocked No. 12 Clemson 85-81 Sunday in John Paul Jones Arena. The sterling performance provided an exclamation point to the day as the Cavaliers retired former star Sean Singletary’s number 44 at halftime.

Virginia used a combination of good shooting, solid defense and the ability to remain poised under pressure to break an eight-game losing streak to hand the Tigers only their fourth loss (20-4) of the season.

The win set off a celebration by the Cavaliers, chest-bumping, and smiles that soon carried over into the locker room. “They were happy, obviously. They were joyful and congratulating each other,” said Virginia coach Dave Leitao.”It is something we have to continue to do. Adversity cannot affect us emotionally.”

Cavalier freshman sensation Sylven Landesburg, quite possibly heading for the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Freshmen of the Year award, scored 23 points, and his driving basket with 13.4 seconds left in regulation tied the game at 74. Landesburg then scored the last six points in the Cavaliers 10-5 run to start overtime.

Clemson coach Oliver Purnell agreed on Landesburg’s candidacy as the league’s top newcomer. “He’s a terrific player, he doesn’t force the game, rather he allows it to come to him,” noted Purnell. “Sometimes when a player is such a excellent shooter and scorer he often forces shots and overreacts. Landesburg understands the game. I haven’t seen a better freshman in the conference this season,” added Purnell.

Landesburg’s game totals read 23 points on 11-of-21 shooting, four rebounds, three steals and three assists. The 23-point scoring effort marked the 12th time this season he has eclipsed the 20-point barrier, and he has scored in double figures in 17 of his 21 games this season. But the major difference today for the victorious Wahoos was that several of Ladesburg’s team mates stepped up to contribute. Mike Scott added 18 points, 15 after halftime, including two monstrous throwdowns to ignite a suddenly raucous JPJA. Sammy Zeglinski broke out of his slump, scoring 15 points including three trey balls. Jeff Jones added 12 points while Jamil Tucker chipped in with 11 points to place five Cavaliers in double-digit scoring, the first since the Georgia Tech game, the team’s only other ACC win.

As a team the Cavaliers shot 53.1 percent for the game, the second-best performance this season from the floor only behind a 55 percent effort against Virginia Military Institute.

Leading 33-25 at the break, Virginia survived a 14-0 Tiger surge to begin the second half. Trailing 39-33 Virginia, then went on a 6-0 run to knot the game at 39. From that point on neither team enjoyed a lead larger than five points. A tenacious Cavalier defense forced Clemson into seven turnovers down the stretch, and limited the South Carolina visitors to just 41 percent shooting from the floor.

Virginia will host Virginia Tech Wednesday evening.

 

– Story by Scott German


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