CLEMSON, S.C. — London Perrantes scored 25 points for No. 18 Virginia as the Cavaliers handed Clemson its fourth straight loss, 77-73. The Tigers fell to 11-6 on the season, 1-4 in the ACC. UVa improved to 13-3 overall, 3-2 in league play.
Clemson’s point total was the second-highest of the season against Virginia, who came in with the nation’s stingiest scoring defense at 52 points per game. But hot shooting throughout the contest propelled Tony Bennett’s team. The Cavs were 29-50 in the game, 58 percent. Perrantes hit four critical three-pointers and scored 14 of his 25 in the second half, when a capacity Littlejohn Coliseum crowd could never truly get into it.
Jaron Blossomgame was once again brilliant, compiling his fourth straight game with at least 20 points. It was his third straight in the series with UVa as well. He finished with a team-high 22 points, hitting 10 of 14 field goal attempts. The Tigers shot well, converting half of their 56 field goals. Gabe DeVoe and Avry Holmes both contributed 15 to the Tiger cause.
Holmes got the Tigers off to a good start, accounting for a 6-0 run by himself from tipoff. He hit three free throws and followed with an old fashioned three-point play. But Virginia crept right back in it, thanks to efficient shooting. The Cavs shot 56 percent in the opening frame, and took their first lead of the contest at 25-24 on two Perrantes free throws. The Tigers fell behind 34-29 with 2:22 to go in the first half, but finished with a flurry. Shelton Mitchell hit a desperation three, and the building came to life in the final minutes as Blossomgame threw down an alley-oop and Holmes tied the score at 36 with a steal and layup to beat the halftime buzzer.
UVa seized control early to start the second half, taking a 47-41 lead just four and a half minutes in to force a timeout by Brad Brownell. The Cavs extended the lead to as many as nine at 60-51, but Clemson answered with a pair of buckets. The Tigers fought valiantly to tie the game at 70 on a three-point play from Blossomgame. But Perrantes answered in resounding fashion, closing out the Tigers with two gut-wrenching shots to win it. Clemson had a couple of good looks from three in transition late, but could not connect.
The Tigers return Thursday, Jan. 19 to take on Louisville at 9 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center.
Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell
“That’s a tough way to lose one. We played well in a lot of spurts. If you would have told me we were going to score 73 and force Virginia into 16 turnovers, I would have told you we would have won the game. But it didn’t happen. Marial [Shayok] and London [Perrantes] were terrific for them. They made big time baskets throughout the game. I thought we did some really good things offensively. We handled their double team well, had a relatively low turnover game and played really well in spurts. I’m pleased with our competitive fight, unfortunately we’ve got to find ways to win these games. It’s the fourth league game that has come down to the last minute and we’ve only won one. Thats frustrating for all of us.”
On playing Thursday night and 38 hours later:
“It was hard, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. We had enough energy to try and win the game. We didn’t get to practice it live, which we would have liked to have done, but Virginia made plays. They won today because they made plays.”
On plan against Virginia’s defense:
“Yeah, I thought our guys, in a short amount of time, did some really good things. We added a couple wrinkles. Eli [Thomas] and Jaron [Blossomgame] were both good in the post, which is hard to do against Virginia. I thought we handled the traps well and got some good shots out of the traps, including layups and dunks when we got it to the other big. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
On perimeter defense:
“We’re just not as good. Our individual defending is not where it needs to be. When we’re playing teams that have terrific players, we’re going to have a hard time. We had a tough time with Marial [Shayok]. We had several different guys guard him at different times, and he made them all struggle. We struggled with [Perrantes]. Avry [Holmes] is one of our better defenders and he had a hard time guarding him. Some of it is their motion. It’s the way they run offense. They grind you and they’re so patient. Some of it is that those guys are elite players. When you play against elite players, some guys are just going to be able to score. You just have to challenge them and make it tough. Certainly, our overall field goal percentage defense was not good today. A lot of that is credit to Virginia. They really executed. We didn’t make enough adjustments and do enough things individually to guard them well.”
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett
“Devon [Hall] made some big free throws. London [Perrantes] had a terrific game. What a game. We executed a call. They didn’t even know it, but we got a clean London [Perrantes] to bang it when we were tied up. And we, defensively, played just well enough and some guys sort of stabbed or speared a rebound and we got it, got the ball in. I put the freshmen, the first years in, and they did a good job. We were having some trouble inbounding the ball, and I just thought they finished it well. And I’m very thankful. I really am. That was a hard fought game. [There were] a lot of mistakes but we overcame them.”
On taking London [Perrantes] out in the first half:
“Actually I took him out and the play just kept going and going. There’s no stoppage in time. Maybe there’s one stop but I liked that group that was on the floor. They were either holding steady with, I don’t know if we were down or up, but the lead, the margin. Well I thought, here’s a good chance... run in and get some rest. And I thought those guys did a good job. Marial [Shayok] and Darius [Thompson] gave us a good lift in the first half. Kyle [Guy] and Ty [Jerome] were good going through it. So I liked what was happening and that was just valuable time he could be out. And we went with [London Perrantes] the whole way in the second half but it wasn’t a, ‘Hey, you need to wait and watch this.’ I just thought those guys were doing a good job.”
On the end of the first half:
“We had two, I was going to say, very costly turnovers in the end of the half. We had London [Perrantes] wide open on an action. Isaiah [Wilkins], I thought he was open and we just threw it away and they scored. And then I called timeout and I didn’t draw it up well enough, and we didn’t execute it. I was hoping to get a look but the last thing we said was, ‘Hey, if it’s not there, please don’t throw it in the back court. Just throw it down there and make a play.’ You get in that spot and we didn’t execute it at the time out. Guys weren’t open and that’s a tough spot to be in, and you hate to do that at the end of the half, but it happened and we overcame it.”
On the increase in defensive rebounds and second chance points in the second half:
“They kind of scored at will in the paint, and then the storyline would have been ‘Points off turnovers.’ But we were good enough. I just kept saying to dig in. When you go four guards you give up things. But you also get some things. And we were just trying to match it that way. But Isaiah [Wilkins] came up with a few big rebounds, 13 total, and that’s significant. I thought Marial [Shayok] went back in there and speared a couple or grabbed a couple rebounds. We needed every possession and obviously I thought it was better in the second half. But defensively, we’ve got a ton of room for improvement. It’s just not where it needs to be, but there’s stretches where it’s good enough.
On Marial Shayok’s last couple of games:
“In practice you can see him coming. He can score off the bounce. He’s creative at creating space, rising up, and he’s got a scorer’s mentality. I put him in the lineup, and whether that’s helped his confidence or not, I don’t think so. He’s just getting opportunities and he’s taking better care of the basketball. I put that first group out there because I think it’s our most physical group, but obviously we are using a lot of different lineups and foul trouble made us do that. But Marial [Shayok] has that strength. That is a strength of him, off that bounce. He can do some different things: driving, pullups, and hit the big three in the corner too.”