GREENVILLE, S.C. — The Tigers took on No. 4 ranked Virginia on Tuesday in front of an emotional Senior Night crowd for their final regular season game at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Cavaliers bookended the game with big runs, proving too much for the Tigers wto overcome in a 64-57 loss. Clemson fell to 9-8 in the ACC, 16-13 on the season. Virginia advanced to 23-6 on the season and 12-5 in league play.
Jaron Blossomgame had the top individual performance for either team with 31 points, just two shy of his career high. He erupted in the second half, putting up 17 and hitting three field goals from long distance. He was the only Clemson player in double figures, however. The Tigers out-shot the Cavs overall, 43.5 percent to 40. But UVa was hot from downtown, converting 9-19 threes. Malcolm Brogdon led the Cavs with 18 points.
The first half got off to a rocky start, with the Tigers facing a 12-0 deficit in the first five minutes. Thanks to a 13-6 run, Clemson was able to turn their luck around and closed the gap 27-33 at the half. After missing its first 10 field goal attempts, Clemson recovered to shoot 42 percent in the first stanza.
Blossomgame brought The Well to its feet with back-to-back shots that closed the gap to 32-34 two minutes into the second half. The first shot was a reverse dunk, among his best highlights of the season. His second three of the half gave the Tigers their first lead of the game, 35-34. Donte Grantham and Gabe DeVoe both hit three-pointers in an entertaining back and forth segment midway through the half. But UVa countered with a 7-0 run following DeVoe’s three that proved to be the difference.
Clemson concludes the regular season on Saturday at Boston College, where the Tigers and Eagles meet at 12 p.m. in Silvio O. Conte Forum.
Clemson Head Coach Brad Brownell
“This was obviously a disappointing ending for a group of seniors that I was hoping we could send out with a great win. Give Virginia credit, they came in and Malcolm (Brogdon) made his first four threes, he was really hot. They executed great from the start, we missed some shots early. I thought our guys showed great resilience, for us to be down 12-0 to the No. 4 team in the country and to take the lead. I thought there was probably a 25-minute stretch in the game where we outplayed them. They are a championship caliber team, because in the last eight minutes of the game they know how to win games. They had some guys make some big threes, Marial (Shayok) made a big three and Devon (Hall), guys that don’t normally do that. London (Perrantes) was outstanding and obviously Brogdon was great. They have good players and we just didn’t get enough scoring from other guys. We didn’t get any shooting from Jordan (Roper) and Avry (Holmes) and Donte (Grantham). I thought Gabe (DeVoe) played very well today, I would have liked to have seen him shoot a few more shots. But at the end of the day, their defense was really good down the stretch and slowed us down. We had a couple of tough breaks, missed free throws and obviously the travel where we got a stop and JB got a rebound and fell down. In a one or two possession game where you miss both free throws and travel when you get a stop and give them another chance, those are back breakers.”
On tough losses inside the final minutes over the last stretch of the season:
“Well, we have won a few over Duke and Louisville and Miami, so we have done it some. We can do it, but we need to do it to where we can win consistently so we can finish in the top four of the league. That is one heck of a challenge. It hasn’t been done very much at Clemson, but we are closer, we are closer this year than we were last year. We are probably really similar to the team a couple of years ago with K.J. (McDaniels) where we have one great player and a bunch of other guys that are good role players. We probably need one more guy to go with him to consistently have two good players. Virginia almost has three with Brogdon and Perrantes and Gill; they just have three superstar players who can have big nights against you. We just haven’t consistently had that second and third guy. Some games that eventually wears on us, and we don’t get enough done. Our size has been problematic for us down the stretch. We are a little small on the perimeter and we get exposed. We drive it in the lane and don’t get fouled and don’t get calls. When we were winning against the better teams, we were getting to the free throw line more. But it has been harder for us to do that the later the season has gone on.”
On keeping the players’ confidence up going into the ACC Tournament:
“I think our guys have been fine, it’s not like we have played bad basketball. This team in Virginia is the fourth-ranked team in the country and we spot them 12 points and still took the lead. That is pretty good. We couldn’t finish off Georgia Tech or NC State on the road, but we did some really good things offensively. We aren’t great at any one thing. We are pretty good at a lot of things, but eventually one of those things breaks down. We’ve got to be good enough to overcome that. I don’t think our guys lack confidence. We are playing reasonably well. We aren’t playing great, but we are playing reasonably well. We are probably playing better than the last six or seven games show, but we have to find a way to win a game at Boston College to get a little more positive momentum going into the ACC Tournament. I think we feel like we can go up there and win several games.”
Virginia Head Coach Tony Bennett
On playing with four guards at the same time:
“It was by necessity due to the way the Jaron (Blossomgame) was playing, we just didn’t have anyone who could match up with him. We needed someone who could bother his shot and he was terrific, so that forced us to go unconventional. We weren’t perfect, we had some mistakes. But I thought we righted the ship with those four guards, figured out our ball screen defense and then ran some decent offense. We don’t do that a lot, but it was important for us to execute in that setting because whether it was Evan (Nolte) or Isaiah (Wilkins) in that setting guarding Blossomgame, it just wasn’t happening tonight. I thought Malcolm (Brogdon) did a solid job, but it is the team and sometimes it is just rotations and we had to fight hard to get it.”
On Anthony Gill’s play in the last 10 minutes:
“Yes, I thought he was good in the last 10 minutes. He battled, that is what he did. We were far from perfect, but we battled and that was the message. How many teams at this stage in the season, with two games left, can say they are in the race for a regular season conference championship race? So it is worth contending for and fighting. The emotion and the energy of the game Saturday (vs. North Carolina) was interesting. I told the team that was going to be our biggest opponent. Can you come in against a very tough team at home in a different environment and have the fight? I thought we came out right and played good, but then there were some breakdowns that cost us. Anthony (Gill) responded late in the game and had to do some things. He rolled his ankle a little at halftime, but he is okay. It took three guys in double figures and two others with nine points … so that balance was important.”